Lets talk for a second about hate. While it doesn’t feel that way, hatred is actually one of the most complex emotions a human being can generate—as a result, it’s one of few specifically human emotions. True hatred requires the activation of several cortical areas of the brain, including extensive areas of the frontal lobe, portions of the mesial temporal lobes (memory, recognition) and some areas of the insula (interroception). Hatred is complex, messy and uniquely human—even in spite of its primal hold on the psyche. Odium—aside from the title of the breakout full-length record by Michigan heavy-hitters Vexatious—is a term describing hatred (usually of the deep and burning kind) for someone as a result of their actions; a deserved, visceral hate, the same kind of hate that courses through every second of Vexatious’ 2020 full-length record. Odium is oppressive, an aural onslaught combining elements of nu-metalcore, deathcore and more into a bombastic, explosive record that takes the listener on a tour through heaviness both lyrical and instrumental.
Odium borrows instrumental elements from metalcore’s broad subsects and blends them together, culminating in Vexatious providing us a record that is bouncy, bold, breakdown-laden and groovy all in one. From the closing portions of the record’s introductory track through the fading moments of “Degrade,” these Michigan metallers weave haunting nu-metalcore into raw, blistering metalcore with prodigal expertise. “Treason” is one such example, where break-neck drums segue into spine-shrinking breakdowns. Meanwhile, the whimsical-yet-wretched leads in “Adversary” give the track a distinctly metallic flair, a brazen juxtaposition against the breakdown-laden “Severed.” These metallic elements work together to make Odium a record less defined by a single subgenre of metalcore, but rather by sheer aggression, as, during it’s entire 25-minute run time, Vexatious don’t let up on the gas once. Where the drumming is rapid and technical, and girthy bass and grisly fretwork follows suit—and where things slow down and beat at the listener like sledgehammers. Where the technical sides of Vexatious are rare, they are also excellently placed, breaking up what would otherwise be somewhat tedious stretches of no-holds-barred brutality. This prevents Odium from lapsing into monotony, even if there could be room for a little more riff and groove in the mix of the band’s otherwise straightforward (albeit sinister) approach to heavy music,
In the introduction, the word “deathcore” was tossed around—and while Vexatious, instrumentally, aren’t really a “deathcore” band, their vocal element certainly borrows from some styles and intonations that are hallmarks of the genre. “Drained” and “Grim” are excellent examples, where vocal variety is abundant with styles ranging from grisly bellows to piercing high shrieks. Other songs—the single “Treason” for example—focus less on variety and more on energy and endurance, using rapid-fire cadence and patterning to keep the listener on the edge of their seat. In a sense, this is another aspect of Odium that saves Vexatious—as the vocal energy and abundance of various styles manages to give each song a different feel, even while there are some lyrical moments that stray dangerously close to blunders (the closing tracks, “Grim” among them feel lyrically weaker overall). In this fashion, the vocal elements on Odium work brilliantly with the instrumentation, each finding ways to keep things fresh and exciting for the listener.
As it stands, twice now I’ve mentioned things that “save” Vexatious—which is a little mean, as the band don’t truly need saving—but there are some areas where the band narrowly averts distaste. Vocally, the band is superb, point blank. However, instrumentally, many songs on Odium feel similar, left only to a couple key moments in each to really let them stand out. As the band’s debut full-length release, it’s an understandable and common pitfall, and it is largely rectified with several songs sounding just different enough to give the record structure and flow. With that said, Odium isn’t perfect, but it’s also a damn good effort by a young and promising heavy band. Ultimately, Vexatious do more things right than they do wrong, making this record a hard one to hate.
For Fans Of: Sworn In, Bodysnatcher, VCTMS
By: Connor Welsh