Review: “Volume III: Halfway Happy” by VCTMS

2014’s “Sickness: Vol. 1” featured five guest vocal appearances, albeit that Landon Tewers and Ben Keller appeared on the same track. 2017’s “Volume II: Inside The Mind” matched that with five over five separate tracks. 2018’s “Volume III: Halfway Happy” goes two better with seven over seven. Are you getting the familiar theme here? VCTMS like to bring their friends along for the ride when in the studio. There isn’t any doubt that at the shows, a random collection of guests from support bands take up those slots and make for a unique experience for the fans at each show. It also means that on the twelve track album, there are only five songs which the band don’t have anyone joining them.

Some haunting got opening off kilter synths give “Ask Yourself” an almost science fiction B-Movie feel in an eerie and gripping way before the opening verse appears. It’s a deliberate false start to throw you off the scent as you immediately think “what am I listening to? This ain’t VCTMS? Is it?” and then the song kicks in a proper with Nu-Metalcore introspective lyrics, an almighty “Blegh!” and the type of Tech-Metal infised guitar work we’ve come to expect from them. The introduction is a stroke of genius.  “Crippling // Form” appeared as single in 2017 and continues the flow with crossing Tech-isms with Nu-Metalcore on the guitar side and bringing to mind the type of material we got from Void of Vision on “Disturbia” without the clean vocals, instead mixing rap-screamed with a harsh bark. “Tape Worm” is the first of the first vocal appearances, through this one is only labelled as featuring “Connor”. Whoever he is, he delivers a slow vocal roll that is akin to what you’d expect on an old skool hardcore punk release. The song itself is a mashup of sorts, blending elements from a number of different styles into one cohesive piece. A menacing harsh whispered section breaks up the breakdowns and adds a sprinkling of magic before that guest vocal and it’s accompanying down tempo groove.

“A Lonely Place of Dying” features guest vocals from Kadeem France of Loathe, offering a menacing riff that loops and re-appears beteen breaks into some more traditional crushing riffage. Lyrically it’s a song about depression and the level of introspection is high and in tune with the current Nu-Metalcore and Nu-Deathcore trends. It’s not a tune written to sound like Loathe and that’s why it works as well as it does. “Cognitive // Closure” picks up the tempo and throws down more groove with some bounce across the verse accompanied by some haunt in the lead sounds. The song then flows into “Beautifully // Depressing” via a programmed drum loop. The clean vocals that start the opening verse are close to spoken word and frankly ugly in a good way, setting a scene. The mid song rap is equally a high pitched throwback to yester year 1999 era bands and after multiple listens it doesn’t seem to work.

“Stasis” features guest vocals from Frankie Palmeri of Emmure and is obviously going to be one of the heavier tracks. The programmed drum loop opening is broken by the bouncy Tech Riffage and suddenly we’re in Deathcore territory and it sounds great! Palmeri delivers a high quality showing and the track features the best drum work of the album to this point. “Devil’s // Door” sees VCTMS joined by Aiden Versteegh of Falsifier and continues the upsurge in quality on the instumentation. It’s not that the earlier tracks are bad, it’s just that the album gets progressively better. A massive slow and punchy breakdown to close the track is impressive as hell. “Misery // Blooms” has an appearance from Jeremy Torres of Lordis whose recently released “In Between Misery and Apathy” we reviewed a short while ago. Some of the earlier work on the album seems to be a nod in the direction that Lordis have taken but this one is actually one that doesn’t. Instead VCTMS play to their own strengths, delivering a pacey Melodic Deathcore tune which builds through some powerful atmospheric lead parts before coming to an almost abrupt close.

“The Past Tense” sees Tyler Shelton of Traitors partaking in some seriously bowl moving low gutturals. It’s always going to be heavily where the Traitors frontman is involved and after what sounds like a helicopter taking off VCTMS deliver some of their best material. A surprise guitar solo even makes an appearance. It’s a bone crushing breakdown that accompanies Shelton’s skull crushing vocal to close the track in fitting style. Title track “Halfway // Happy” features another rap after a spoken word sample intro over a programmed drum loop. It’s broken up by some clean vocals that improve as the track plays through. It’s a haunting and melodic affair that seems somewhat out of place but also acts as a palette cleanser for the final track. “Was It Worth It” features Patrick Somoulay of Reflections and is another tune which mashes up the styles, bouncing between song killer basslines and stuccato riffage over a haunting melody. A ripping guitar solo brings the tune and the album to a close.

There is no mistaking the quality of the musicianship on “Halfway Happy”. The tracks ebb and flow nicely, each one short and to the point musically and showcasing a decent degree of songwriting ability. The songs have been designed to flow between each other nicely and the segwaying between the songs when used is pretty sweet. The issues are more around the lyrical content, whereby the consistency of high level introspection detracts overall after a number of spins. It’s something that many Nu-Metal bands suffer from and the current crop are no different. That being said, it’s still a decent album and the guests add a sparkle. [7.5/10]

Track listing

1. Ask Yourself
2. Crippling // Form
3. Tape Worm (feat. Connor)
4. A Lonely Place of Dying (feat. Kadeem France of Loathe)
5. Cognitive // Closure
6. Beautifully // Depressing
7. Stasis (feat. Frankie Palmeri of Emmure)
8. Devil’s // Door (feat. Aiden Versteegh of Falsifier)
9. Misery // Blooms (feat. Jeremy Torres of Lordis)
10. The Past Tense (feat. Tyler Shelton of Traitors)
11. Halfway // Happy
12. Was It Worth It? (feat. Patrick Somoulay of Reflections)

“Volume III: Halfway Happy” by VCTMS is out now and available over at bandcamp.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *