Review: “Culling Culture” by Vexed
They say that good things come to those who wait and in the case of Hertfordshire heavyweights Vexed it seemed like the wait was taking forever. Ice ages had come and gone in the time between their pair of devastating singles which opened up the floor for them and it seemed, from a fans perspective at least, like it might not happen for them. How wrong we were. Having announced themselves to the World in April 2019 with “Elite“, a single that features a guest vocal appearance from CJ McMahon of Thy Art Is Murder, produced, mixed and mastered by Meyrick De La Fuente and with a music video from Loki Films, they followed up that left hook with a meaty upper cut in the form of “Dominate” a month later. Numerous shows and tours followed with the band landing support slots with Whitechapel and performing at Tech-Fest in 2019. The announcement of their signing for a major label in Napalm Records for their debut full length “Culling Culture” is simply something that dreams are made of and now in 2021, the dream has become reality for drummer Willem Mason-Geraghty, guitarist Jay Bacon, bassist Al Harper and frontwoman Megan Targett.
The quality of those singles puts a certain amount of weight of expectation on Vexed for “Culling Culture“, but having seen them live on more than one occasion we know that the Progressive Deathcore titans have what it takes; the only question being whether the material we’ve heard in the live arena is the material on the album, or whether these are fresh cuts. Eerie introduction piece “Ignorant” is a classic piece of Deathcore with chunky riffs that has plenty of classic influences while setting a menacing tone for the onslaught to follow with pre-release single “Hideous” being a vicious little ditty. Demonstrating an incredible multi-faceted vocal range, Targett impresses from the very start with brutal low death growl uncleans and interspersed with clean sung moments that soar like a vulture on the thermals, ready to sweep down and pick the bones of any carcass clean with her change downs. The horror film eerie hauntings continue with the opening of “Fake” as the band have clearly put a lot of work into building atmospheres and creating a sense of tension; the riff that follows is all about the swagger and the leads that follow it are seriously impressive not to mention the skull shattering downtempo ending. The overarching theme of this record is an unfiltered response to the world’s latest social phenomena of public ostracism, “cancel culture” and although it doesn’t apply to every song, its easy to read it into the album. The Tech-Metal of “Epiphany” which sees melancholic, melodic riffs and bright clean vocals interspliced with some impressive polyrhythmic battery is a jaw dropping moment as it flips the coin and shows not just another side but another dimension to the band, showing that there is far more to them than meets the eye. It’s like Butcher Babies and Emmure had a bastard child that went feral.
Aside from the clean vocal moments, there are also elements of programming used to bolster the sound and set little nuances off that creep out of the mix over multiple listens, “Misery” has some tasteful icy synths in the mix that pushes it that much further as does the lethal dose of pure hatred that is “Narcissist“. It may not be quite to the level of Symphonic Deathcore Queen Misstiq but perhaps that’s something that will come in the future; Target also delivers some bone shattering rap-screams on this one, the sheer aggression of the vocal performance perhaps indicating that there is a deeper meaning to the lyrics about someone’s parasitic tendencies. Perhaps the boldest left field choice of “Culling Culture” is “Purity“; a cut with it’s roots in Progressive Metal, it has resonating, melodic rhythms with rich clean vocals that show an underlying sensitivity and ponder on depression and death while calling on you to be your own saviour. Brave in so many ways, its the polar opposite of the rest of the record while still having enough unclean vocal parts to keep the flow of the entire piece intact. Combining it with the ambient interlude that is “Drift” and you have a pair that were perhaps unexpected but that also add a greater depth and texture to the beast; Vexed are clearly so much more than just a Progressive Deathcore outfit. There is also a self-healing quality to “Aurora” which has moments of ghostly ambience with a real face in the mirror the day after the night before sense to it and it’s Progressive Tech-Metal inspirations only serve to enhance Vexed’s claims to the throne, there are moments when they challenge Jinjer. Those haunting melodies are then shattered by the disrespectfully heavy finale that is “Lazarus“, which brings DJent fuelled goodness, polyrhythmic riffs and groove for days. If anyone thought that Vexed were going to be flash in the pan, here and gone, they are much mistaken; with “Culling Culture” we witness the birth of a truly international beast [8.5/10]
“Culling Culture” by Vexed is out 21st May via Napalm Records