Album: Mob Justice
For most artists working in the slam subdivision of extreme music, the attempts at over-the-top gore mashed up with gruesome subject matter and absurd imagery come from pure imagination (well, pure imagination mixed with one horror movie marathon too many, maybe). Aliens slicing, scathing, mutilating, marauding or maliciously sexually assaulting innocent life forms, or serial killers’ tales of sex-tinted bloodlust gone awry—all variations on the musical style’s central themes of depravity.
And again, for most artists—most—these stories come from a land of sick-and-twisted make-believe. But for others—Vulvodynia, for example—they’re an exaggeration of the truth, of history, or of both. On their third full-length release, Mob Justice, Vulvodynia take a break from the loosely conceptual but immensely gritty narrative that defined Psychosadistic Design to create an experience based around South African politics, history, socio-economic strife and social warfare, all in a grisly and grotesque thirty-five minute long salvo. Mob Justice stands as Vulvodynia’s finest offering to date, with some tracks that veer deeper into the slammier side of this sinister slamming deathcore outfit’s inclincations, while others linger more towards a beatdown-infused deathcore approach, giving the band’s magnum opus a balanced, diverse but thoroughly brutalizing dynamic.
Mob Justice contains some songs—“Nyaope” and “Cultural Misogyny”—that are Vulvodynia’s most slam songs to date. Others—like the “Reclaim the Crown” series and “Blood Diamond” lean more towards a raw head-on collision between deathcore and heavy hardcore/beatdown. This is, in some part, due to the instrumental variation found throughout the record. Percussionist Thomas Hughes serves as the band’s backbone, with “Blood Diamond” oscillating between lacerating blast beats and beefy, bold breakdown patterns without discrimination. “Mob Justice,” the record’s title track, serves as a sturdier example of Hughes’ slamming death metal skills, working excellently with bassist Chris Van Der Walt to bewilder the listener with bone-busting aggression from the first spine-shattering slam. Relentlessly, the duo work to craft a beastly low end that serves as the bastion for guitarists Byron Dunwoody, Luke Haarhoff and Kris Xenopolous. Vulvodnia’s tri-headed and terrifying trifecta spend the entirety of Mob Justice laying down riff after riff after groove after gut-wrenching slam to steamroll the listener beneath over a half-hour of boundless brutality. “Nyaope” is an excellent example—especially for those seeking some of Mob Justice’s slammier segments. Meanwhile, “Echoes of the Motherland” is a brief interlude that contrasts catchy writing with cruel and unusual aggression—all while the trio create a pummeling piece of deathcore perfection on “Born Into Filth.” The takeaway is that Mob Justice is simultaneously the most slam and least slam record Vulvodynia have released to date—but whether you measure it in terms of slams, breakdowns, riffs or blast-beats, it is without a doubt their finest instrumental effort to date.
The conceptual aspect of Mob Justice becomes relevant when considering the lyrical contributions by frontman Duncan Bentley. Bentley has made a name for himself in the undergrounds populated by fans of extreme metal, and for good reason—even with the stunning variety provided by Mob Justice’s guest vocalists, Bentley’s vocals remain immaculate. What’s more, his vocal variety is matched only by the difficult tasks broached by his lyrics, ranging from child warfare and slaughter on “Blood Diamond,” social strife and class-based conflict in “Nyaope” and sex-based discrimination and oppression in “Cultural Misogyny” (which, for those unfamiliar with Mob Justice’s theme, might be mistaken for veritable misogyny). Bentley has managed to do what many may consider to be an impossibility—create an intellectually stimulating slamming deathcore record. While many tracks take repeated listens (and a glance or two at a lyric sheet) to decipher, the more intelligible tracks like “Blood Diamond” don’t take a historian to figure out. Wait! Some might be thinking. Are the vocals even good? Well yeah—yeah, they’re incredible—but to capture the sheer range Bentley boasts, the listener is better off just listening to the damn record.
I’m fairly certain in just about every review I write for a slam-something-or-other band, I end up hammering home that most of the genre I find to be dense, dull or otherwise intolerable. That’s still true—and was true for Vulvodynia, once upon a time. However, since the band’s debut EP, they have continued to grow, with each subsequent record being better than its predecessor. Psychosadistic Design was damn good, which means Mob Justice might just have a fair shot at claiming the title of slamming deathcore’s apex record, at least where 2019 is concerned. Laden with more riffs, grooves, slams and breakdowns than you could shake a whole Sahara’s worth of sticks at, Mob Justice is one of 2019’s must-listen slamming deathcore records.
For Fans Of: Ingested, Within Destruction, Acranius, Cognitive
By: Connor Welsh