With a name like Vampire, you might expect this mysterious Swedish quartet to be some kind of sappy, quasi-gothic nonsense, but fortunately for you, dear headbanger, nothing could be further from the truth, as evidenced by the gritty, greasy metal of their self-titled Century Media debut. Indeed, the infernal racket found here recalls the likes of Venom, Bathory and perhaps Darkthrone’s more recent work, but the vamps instill the tunes with enough of their own punky, garage-rocking fervor to distinguish themselves from the retro-metal hordes. Imagine Cronos, Tom G. Warrior and Fenriz jamming in said garage and you’re getting pretty damn close to the hellbound underground sound of Vampire.
As one might expect, the album has a dusty, dingy character, like it was recently unearthed from the graves of the eighties. It’s even got the requisite gnarly vocal reverb, and lead throat Hand of Doom isn’t shy about unleashing the occasional Tom G. “OUGH!” to keep it real. The guitar tone isn’t the HM-2-powered buzzsaw you might expect from a Swedish band going oldschool, rather it’s much closer to the rickety distortion of Welcome to Hell or Black Metal. Six-stringer, uh, Black String (coolest stage name ever?) has a ridiculously plentiful arsenal of catchy riffs which he deploys throughout the album, and there really isn’t a track here that isn’t headbang-worthy.
One of the album’s most appealing aspects is that it seems to draw equally from black, death and thrash metal; the days when metal’s genre lines weren’t so defined was well before my time, but I’m still enamored with the idea of metal just being heavy fuckin’ metal and not needing to be compartmentalized. Reaching back into that primordial ooze is no easy task; sure, those might have been simpler times, but with retro-mania seeping into seemingly every subgenre, it’s becoming more and more difficult to be convincing. Vampire sound like they have a legitimate reverence for and understanding of the proto-extreme metal tradition, which allows them to pull it off without sounding contrived.
Vampire have concocted what is surely one of the most fun listens of 2014. There’s a looseness and lack of pretension here that’s very refreshing and should easily appeal to fans of other like-minded contemporary old schoolers such as Midnight, Toxic Holocaust and Children of Technology. It’s nothing you haven’t heard before, but the level of craftsmanship and attention to detail makes it more than worth your time, not to mention the fact that it flat-out kicks ass.