Review: “Quest For The Mighty Riff” by VHS

Plundering the World of 80s sword and sorcery flicks like Conan the Barbarian, Masters of the Universe and The Highlander for inspiration, Canadian trio VHS continue their Death Metal conceptual odes to blood-soaked niche genres with “Quest For The Mighty Riff“. Mastered by Topon Das (They Grieve, Holy Grinder, Expunged) at Apartment 2 Recording, the follow up to 2022’s “Deep Gashes And Long Lashes” finds the band returning to Wise Blood Records who handled their Vampire themed “I Heard They Suck… Blood” the year prior. Featuring no less than four guest vocalists, the band have already given us three genre-decapitating Death Punk bangers in the build up…

The introduction and interlude music is credited to guest Matt Harvey of Exhumed with narration from Schuler Benson of Trocar, palette cleansing “The Quest Begins” being a classic 80’s VHS style advert for a movie before the creature double feature begins. After that nostalgia soaked minute the fun begins with “Cleave ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” and the first guest appearance as Aaren Pantke of Molder lends this throat. A straight up Death Punk cut, it combines both genres in 93 seconds with blistering Punk infused riffs and scathing Death Metal vocals while at the same time having the energy of a live performance as if recorded live from the killing floor. The recording was actually done by guitarist and vocalist Mike Hochins who also mixed, the rough and ready feel of tape trading sonic oblivion taking the nostalgia levels to another level. Hochins offers up gravel throated vocals which add contrast those from Marlee Ryley of Hyperia who joins for “Crimson Haired Warrior”, the pair going toe to toe as the fun reaches a steady boil. The unclean range he offers is intriguing, shriller tones and vocal layering put to good use on “Illias and His Magic Bow” which sounds like a Nekrogoblikon demo stripped back to the bare essentials, the face melting solo an unexpected moment of ecstasy wrapped in anarchy.

Another spoken word introduction brings in “The Fighting Eagle“, helping break up the no nonsense flow and providing momentary respite while at the same time setting the scene. Another bouncy skull crusher that strikes a excellent balance between genres, it sounds like it belongs to a dark exploitation movie with plenty of low budget thrills and spills. Arguably the best of the kit performances from Andy Middaugh is on the downright evil “There Can Be Only One” which finds Schuler Benson of Trocar giving his larynx a health scare with shriller tones that are nothing short of disgusting. Hilariously good fun, lyrically it’s Death Metal without the seriousness of a Cannibal Corpse and while you’ll probably need a lyric sheet to get everything from it, the imagination is really the only limit here. Building up with a sinister groove laden bass line from Curtis Mill, “Are You Afraid of Dragons?” is one of the stand outs as James McBain of Hellripper joins the party. A slow head bang to a mid tempo in the first half the band then put the pedal to the metal, ripping out a solo that is as classy as it is good clean fun. Adding pinch of synth and a couple of samples “Hail King Arthur” has a Doomier edge, the vocals not surfacing from the black lagoon before the mid way point.

The band stick to task, creating another tour de force of genre blending without a care for who gets offended by their no frills approach. If you can imagine the sounds of The Misfits fronted by the late great Trevor Strnd of The Black Dahlia Murder then you know what “Eternia Needs a Hero” sounds like. He had previously made a guest appearance of “Horror of Dracula” from the bands 2021 effort “I Heard They Suck… Blood” and this makes for fitting tribute. Fleeting melancholic moments of melody are a nice touch in “The Beastmaster“, adding a dull ache to the bands armoury and brings the album to a fitting conclusion… but wait, the credit sequence hides a couple more tracks! A savage rendition of “Everything I Do (I Do it For You)” by Bryan Adams is brain haemorrhage inducing, a Death Punk valentines cover that would probably go down a storm at a frat party. It’s the kind of cut you play to your non-Metal head friends and watch as they pull faces and s*** their pants but fortunately we’re saved by the slick leads of “The Neverending Story“. Truth is… at sixteen cuts this is probably a little over long even though it doesn’t outstay its welcome [7/10]

Track Listing

1. The Quest Begins…
2. Cleave ‘Em and Leave ‘Em (ft. Aaren Pantke of Molder)
3. Dagoth Must Die
4. Crimson Haired Warrior (ft. Marlee Ryley of Hyperia)
5. Illias and His Magic Bow
6. The Fighting Eagle
7. Adventurers, Heroes, Brothers
8. There Can Be Only One (ft. Schuler Benson of Trocar)
9. The Quest Continues…
10. Are You Afraid of Dragons? (ft. James McBain of Hellripper)
11. Hail King Arthur
12. Eternia Needs a Hero
13. The Beastmaster
14. The Quest is Complete
15. Everything I Do (I Do it For You) (bonus track, Bryan Adams cover)
16. The Neverending Story (bonus track)

Quest For The Mighty Riff” by VHS is out 19th May 2023 via Wise Blood Records with pre-orders available over at bandcamp

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