You could be forgiven for hearing ‘With Primeval Force’, the sophomore album from Gothenburg’s Vampire, and immediately assuming they are a hidden gem from the late ’80s underground that you somehow missed. Formed in 2011, their first, self-titled demo became an underground favourite, with over 300 copies moving in under a week – Darkthrone‘s Fenriz counting himself among the immediate fans. Fast forward six years, and the Swedes have a self-titled debut and ‘Cimmerian Shade’, an EP, under their belts, and are gearing up for the release of their second full-length.
With a brand of metal that is firmly placed in the old-school, it’s safe to say that ‘With Primeval Force’ doesn’t sound like many death metal records you’ll see coming from the metal world’s major labels. The best way to describe their sound is a bastardized lovechild of Celtic Frost, early Sodom, and Grave. Early European thrash plays a huge part in the sound of much of the riffing, making the guitar work sound more like ‘Endless Pain’ than ‘Blessed Are the Sick’. However, this album is not purely chaotic savagery: there are melodies thrown into the mix at opportune moments. ‘With Primeval Force’ is certainly not a melodic album, but the use of a sinister melody in certain passages of some of the tracks really breaks up what could have become a monotonous blast of blackened, thrashy, old-school death metal worship.
Opening with the epically titled “Knights of the Burning Crypt,” ‘With Primeval Force’ starts on a high note. There is no build up, no symphonic intro track, the album just dives straight into a moment of pure Swe-death riffing before the thrashy verse blasts into the forefront. The last minute and a half of the track is steeped in a supremely dark melody that will cover your spine in goosebumps. Unwilling to remove their collective foot from your throat, Vampire pull no punches driving into the circle-pit summoning “He Who Speaks” and the short, grinding gut-punch “Skull Prayer.”
The halfway point of the album starts a three-wave attack of bloodthirsty excellence. Kicking off with the catchy, but no less grim, “Midnight Trial,” Vampire show a bit more of their melodic side in the guitar work here. The track ends with a touch of feedback fading out into the utterly superb “Revenants.” With this track alone, you know Vampire hail from Sweden – the distinctly Swedish death metal sound the country has become adored for in the metal world oozes from every second of this track like a morbid, blood-soaked slime. A short, melancholic guitar passage and a clap of thunder ends “Revenants” and leads us into “Ghoul Wind” – a song that could easily have been a bonus track on Kreator‘s ‘Endless Pain’. The unrelenting and savage speed of the track is absolutely blistering. ‘With Primeval Force’ ends of a double whammy of “Initiation Rite” and the sinister “Scylla,” which closes the album with a haunting choir.
A nine-track journey through some classic sounding extreme metal, Vampire prove that in 2017, death metal does not have to be polished – raw, cold and blackened production does not have to be nigh unlistenable – ‘With Primeval Force’ is as enjoyable as it is bestial. Though it lacks the anthemic catchiness of their self-titled debut, and a couple of tracks are largely forgettable, Vampire have penned a mature and refined record that is well executed and a little different from what we have come to expect from the majority of today’s death metal scene. Fans of the raw, gut-wrenching death metal stylings of Autopsy and Grave, and the unmistakable signature sound of early Teutonic thrash metal will find themselves falling in love with Vampire.