REVIEW: Vulvodnia – Entabeni [2024]

Artist: Vulvodynia
Album: Entabeni

Vulvodynia are one of my favorite success stories within the realm of heavy music. What started as an innocuous slamming death metal band from South Africa is now one of the world’s premiere outfits in hybridized slam and deathcore. The band’s transfiguration from their debut is something young outfits should take note—and their latest full length venture, Entabeni, sees the band take some of their most notable changes in recent history, with the most prominent being the addition of new vocalist, Lwandile Prucent replacing former frontman Duncan Bentley. In short, Entabeni is the band’s finest offering to date, capturing the distilled essence of the slamming heaviness they’ve spent the better part of a decade refining while continuing to infuse it with elements of deathcore and technical death metal that keep things fun, light and engaging. Crafted with care and precision for fans of things that go slam, chug or riff in the night, Vulvodynia’s take on traditional South African folklore is a riveting and ruthlessly heavy culture exposure to be lauded.

Vulvodynia have never been slackers where musicianship has been concerned—whether it was the punishing speed prevalent on Cognizant Castigation or the furiously fretted salvos of riffs and otherworldly breakdowns that defined Praenuntius Infiniti, this international outfit has always been worth their weight in instrumental proficiency. Entabeni continues this trend, taking the technicality and intensity abundant on some of the more progressive cuts of Praenuntius Infiniti and making them more accessible while still retaining the same edge. “Isandlwana” is an example of the band capturing those hints of progressive death that reared its head on their previous record, while “Devil Tree” and the skin-rending opening cut “Imbawula” are nothing but balls-out displays of brutalizing aggression. Throughout the release, Vulvodynia approach this dialectic with more tact than seen previously—with very few songs swinging to one extreme or the other, and more songs like recent single “Adamaster” combining both riff-heavy fretwork and some of the most explosive and eviscerating displays of heaviness the band have put on show to date. “It Follows” is another excellent example of this, a song that takes punchy, quick drums and segues them into stellar, catchy grooves and one of the more memorable chorus-sections in slam-tinted-deathcore history. Where some songs lean more towards the pulverizing and unbridled intensity abundant in the band’s early works and others are more musically adventurous, the result is a majority of the songs reigning supreme as a stellar blend of the two, with both immolating rage and strong songwriting in aces.

The thing most people are likely more interested in, however, is to see how Prucent holds up throughout and entire release of Vulvodynia ranging from esoteric and adventurous to spine shattering. The answer? He holds up brilliantly. Prucent’s vocals cover every range one could want or expect from Vulvodynia and he does so while artfully detailing traditional South African folklore (admixed with some more overt horror themes, see “It Follows”). Without sounding too catty, Bentley’s presence isn’t missed in the slightest, as Prucent dominates throughout Entabeni’s entire runtime. “Adamaster” is a personal favorite where the record’s vocal efforts are concerned, as is the aforementioned and very catchy “It Follows.” Other songs—like the penultimate cut “Mangled and Maimed” are also worth mentioning and home to a salvo of low roars and piercing screeches that will keep any fan of heavy music enthused. The takeaway is simple; the band’s vocal element matches their instrumental intensity and dynamism to a tee, leaving the listened thoroughly satisfied with the experience that is Entabeni.

Getting dangerously close to the double-digit number of releases, Vulvodynia have continued to push the envelope and hone their sound. Just when one gets fooled into thinking the band has reached their final form, the metamorphosis continues—and one can’t even be mad when the result is a record like Entabeni. A lesson in savagery from start to finish, Vulvodynia have brought to the world one of the few can’t-miss records of 2024.

For Fans Of: Bodysnatcher, Ingested, A Wake in Providence, Archspire
By: Connor Welsh