The Vicious Head Society – Extinction Level Event (2021) – Review

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Ouch. From Abject Tomorrow to an Extinction Level Event. That’s what I call an upgrade, just think of the dinosaurs and their fate. From a dreary outlook of the future to total destruction. There you go.

This sounds a bit like being bumped up from the dregs of the infamous Cattle Train to the highest spheres of the ultimate First Class. There’s nothing higher than that, apart from Nirvana perhaps. A very dystopian nirvana, though. I think I’ll have a depressive panic attack right here. Where is that damned Xanax?

Yet all that abject medication apart, I quite liked the theme The Vicious Head Society chose. Impending doom, duly seen through the eyes of seven individuals. No visions here, only stark facts and things you absolutely cannot change. Until the grim reaper moves in and takes you away, that is. How do these people react when faced with an event like that and – surely – interact with the rest of humanity? Well, whatever their reaction may be, this is a great concept for a Progressive Metal piece.

And RMR may have to change its policy. Because the record contains two pretty cool instrumental tracks that we actually rated higher than most. And usually, we don’t do instrumental only. But never fear, Extinction Level Event1) contains a fair share of lyrics, too.

But back to the instrumentals. The title track right at the beginning is a 10-minute behemoth of them. And it got us worried. Bands that place the title track first usually lack in the quality department later.

Usually.

Yet, here, none of that is true. The first track is a pretty geeky play-through of what Progressive Metal has on offer these days. A fair amount of djents, soaring melodies, juicy riffs, licks, and melodies that vaguely remind us of Genesis and Yes of times long gone and dead. Oh, and doomsday sirens duly included, of course. A must-have in a somewhat retro-looking jumble of messages from the harbinger of doom. It’s a complete and pretty masterful first packet the vicious ones send your way. And it made us yearn for moar, much moar.

So, did the band live up to the first-track-best-track stereotype? Quite so. But know that this is good, as in extremely good. And it in no way reduces the rest to a sorry mess of mushy ashes.

Much to the contrary. Extinction Level Event really takes off after this somewhat elusive first track. Solipsism gets you a taste of traditional prog, one that soars on a wave of traditional clears. Whiffs of Nevermore with a taste or two of older Queensrÿche, those that operate in the rougher realms of the prog multiverse. The record ain’t as harsh as the latter two bands, yet the style it boasts for sure is a pretty rugged edition of what we currently find in many of the prog outfits here.

The record also weaves a pretty hefty lump of melancholy into its tunes. Not at the level of any doom outfit. But – as the theme commands – a certain undertone of despair and – yes – defeatism is certainly present and warranted, too. The whole storyline talks about an extinction level event after all.

Further, the limited use of growls is spot on whenever some emotion of evil sentiment needs a boost. Many prog bands completely stay away from the growls section2) of their artist’s shop. And that’s a pity. Because rasping about the soundscape surely gets ye a ton of new options.

True, the artist risks pissing off the classical nerds or eliciting howls of protest from the nice weather adepts of the prog scene. But the RMR deckhands stoutly voted for it. Newly added grit is always good for that metal business of ours.

Long stretches of the record truly reminisce of what Lucassen’s Ayreon and – for sure – Guilt Machine project. And in line with many of Lucassen’s pieces, this album also has a tendency to noodle about the soundscape some. The Vicious Head Society surely did their best to avoid former sins and cut the overall length down by some 12 minutes. And that’s great.

Yet, some tracks like Judgement, for instance, come across as mushy and overblown with all that clutter in there. So, as often is the case, crisper songwriting and pretty severe liposuction would have given us a shorter and juicily svelte list of tracks. One that doesn’t overstep the attention span of this crew here so often.

So, to put a tent around all this, Extinction Level Event is a true step up from its predecessor. The Vicious Head Society for sure never tried to reinvent the wheel. Yet at the same time, the record weaves all sorts of style directions, moods, and variations into a well-rounded piece of Progressive Metal. One that comes with a subtle complexity that will – after all – demand all your attention for a thorough listen.

In short, the RMR deck crew ultimately found yet another cool Progressive Metal album in a year that seems to lack good prog so far.

Recommended.


Record Rating: 7/10 | LabelHostile Media | Web: Facebook
Release Date: 28 May 2021

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