Review: “Mercer 217” by Vatic

Conceived in 2018, Vatic are a band who have fallen in love with the art of storytelling, crafting lyrics around characters rather than venting on opinions or current affairs. Pairing that style with their sonic creations of dark and gloomy soundscapes with bittersweet melodies and aggressive tendencies and you have the foundation of the Australian Alternative Metal act who have joined the likes of Void Of Vision, Diamond Construct and Bloom in sharing stages in the past four years with debut 2019 EP “Inhibition” serving them well. 2022 finds the quintet of Matt Payne (vocals), Dylan Houston (drums) , Zakary Luttrell (bass and vocals), Dinesh Wolfe (guitar) and Adam Bonnefin (guitar) preparing to unveil something new in concept EP “Mercer 217“, a tale brought to life by Vatic alongside long time collaborator and producer, Nick Sjogren (Thornhill) who produced, mixed, mastered and engineered the record…

…which is set in East Mercer at the home of protagonist Chance, a place where all is not well. A man possessed by the inner demons created by his actions, he has transformed from an unsuspecting young man into a monster, dealing with the emotions of loss, rage and paranoia while detectives investigate his crimes. Within the four walls of his home lay the bodies of his victims but as they are not buried properly their spirits live on, leaving Chance tormented though visions of abject horror and looking for purpose and safety he is  faced with his own mortality…

…”Not Ready To Die” marks the first chapter of our story with vocalist Matt Payne taking on the role of Chance in the first person against a backdrop of unsettling programming that builds into a Gloom Metal monster, combining the harsh whispers heard from David Gunn in King 810 with the brutal work of early Loathe. At 105 seconds it’s an introduction piece that cuts far too short but none the less seamlessly runs into “Silver Glass“. Hauntingly melodic in the melancholic clean vocal sections that have a Post-Hardcore quality about them, the uncleans give the sense of a split personality within the protagonist Chance as he evolves, tearing himself apart from the inside out. That’s reflected in the brutality of the heavier parts of the cut as the band push the extremes of their sound out, creating the atmosphere of a horror film that wants you to grip the pillow tight, something which continues to build in “The Colour In Your Eyes“. Haunting and dark during the more melodic passages it bursts into life with bloody power and a certain theatrical quality that distantly echoes the thoughts of Spencer Charnas from Ice Nine Kills in places without the tongue in cheek humour aspect. A murderous tale with a few hint of orchestration, it’s well put together and the longest cut at just over four minutes. Fleeting moments of DJent appear in title track “217” which brings the bounce while taking a page out of the “Alien” era of Northlane as a heavy any energetic soundscape that drives things forward with both verve and swagger.

The second half of the record begins with “No Sleep“, another heavy hitter which this time orientates around staccato riff breaks that deliver a deeply satisfying crunch and plenty of neck snapping fuel for the fire of the mosh pit. It closes on a harshly whispered rap style vocal that flows into “Dead End“, a Trap Metal leaning cut reveals the band as Australian with some accenting beginning to creep in while having industrial moments which feed into the narrative, sonically adding to the diversity of the record without leaving the core sound behind. An eerie warning, “Remember East Mercer” reinforces the notion that the tale of Chance is along similar lines to American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, the story Patrick Bateman and what’s strange about this one is that it’s told in the first person. That makes it more accessible in some ways, meaning that the songs stand up on their own in isolation without the need for an understanding of the narrative arc, however its when you buy into it as a whole that it becomes the gift that keeps giving. A trauma but by no means a blunt one, the flows on waves of dark Gloom Metal groove with intricate nuances buried in the mix as it tempo shifts like the twists and turns of a page turning thriller, contorting reality inside the mind of Chance. The clean vocal moments from Luttrell are stunning and border on the effeminate with a delicate ache that contrasts the violence and aggression within the turbulence of the music perfectly. The curtain is brought down by “Let Me Die” which finds Chance wrestling with himself as if he has a split personality, the monster not letting the child within die or the ghosts of his victims transcend to the next life. A haunting and powerful closing it leaves the door open for another chapter and will leave you wanting more… [8/10]

Track Listing

  1. Not Ready To Die
  2. Silver Glass
  3. The Colour In Your Eyes
  4. 217
  5. No Sleep
  6. Dead End
  7. Remember East Mercer
  8. Let Me Die

Mercer 217” by Vatic is out 21st October 2022

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