UK alt-metal band, Vexed return with their sophomore release, Negative Energy, due out on the 23rd of June via Napalm Records.
In 2021, Vexed emerged as one of the hottest new bands to watch in heavy music – crushing anyone in their path with their disturbingly honest, highly-lauded debut, Culling Culture. The album and its tracks quickly graced “Best Of” lists by the likes of Revolver, Alternative Press, Loudwire, as well as features and reviews in mags like Metal Hammer (DE) and Distorted Sound (UK), just to name a few, upon release. On June 23, 2023, the band will unleash the album’s aggressive successor, entitled Negative Energy. Heavier and more violent, the new studio album depicts the confidence Vexed have gathered since their first release, and represents a soundtrack of brutality – chaotic, traumatic and based on the band’s most grueling personal experiences – while exploring themes of death, betrayal, pain and grief even more critically than before.
The Hertfordshire based band throw every ounce of their Negative Energy into these 13 tracks. With tracks that explore PTSD, childhood trauma, survivor’s guilt, mental health, loss and more , Negative Energy is designed as a powerful musical conduit for the band’s, and many of our own, burdens.
Vexed is a three piece with Megan Targett on vocals, Jay Bacon on guitar and Willem Mason-Geraghty on drums.
With 13 tracks to get stuck into, we kick off with PTSD. A short, introductory track that sets the scene nicely with some sampling, backing synth and crunchy riffs and drums, ready for the explosive Anti-Fetish. That same technical crunch sits over the drums and guitars with the backing giving a bit of an industrial feel to the song. The vocals are fiery and powerful, hitting you with a near relentless stream of anger and frustration. I really love how the vocals, without skipping a beat, occasionally slip into a cleaner word or two. The seamless vocal transition between that occasional clean word and the vicious vitriol is impressive. Vexed aren’t messing about here, definitely angrier and heavier than I have ever heard them before.
We don’t talk about it keeps the Negative Energy flowing with some really neat guitar licks and vocals that are pretty fucking amazing. The added groove in the verses, with a slightly lower, menacing vocal style has real impact and the chorus works a treat off of it. It’s a great song, I really love the structure and flow of it and while it still packs a punch in terms of brutality, it has plenty of groove in the riffs and drums to get heads banging too.
X my <3 (Hope to die) is my favourite track on Negative Energy so far. It’s a massive track, so full of power and emotion with amazing drums and guitars. The vocals are the show stealer though, what a talent Vexed have in Megan Targett! Her range is phenomenal and on this track, she puts it all out there in a catchy, emotional and aggressive number that will surely make any listener sit up and take notice.
With a very high bar set so far, Panic Attack is up hitting hard with loads of string bending and deep, grooving tone while the vocals are barked rabidly at pace. The chorus comes like a breakdown with a menacing vocal tone used alongside the catchy and impactful drum beats and blasts.
Lay down your flowers brings a bit of that industrial tint in to the intro with some scratchy effects before the brutality descends upon us. A fast and aggressive energetic track sees the drums hitting infectious beats alongside thick and murky riffs. The stop start riffing is cool, though I’m not a huge fan of the effect used to seperate hooks. That effect aside though, it’s a fiery track that gets elevated when it drops away into a melodic slow down and whispered vocals that leads into a huge bassy breakdown. I believe this is what the kids say slaps!
Vexed offer no respite on Negative Energy as we head straight into the fast attack titled There’s no place like home. It’s quite progressive as far as it’s structure and off kilter riffs and effects go. Again, it showcases all the talent in Vexed with insane drums and riffs and vocals that are mesmerising. I do find the heavier use of samples and effects grating for my personal taste but they do fit the song well.
Extremist takes the energy levels up even further with a vicious track that hits hard and barely relents. The vocal speed is ridiculous and the simple but effective drum beats and guitars allow the vocals to shine. It all comes togther nicely for a chorus that sees the tones switch and instruments take a more prominet role. The drums are killer in this track and the deep, dark and punchy breakdown is excellent, leading back into a fast chorusd before returning to close the track out.
Default comes next and keeps the bar high with another firm favourite and something a little bit different and pallette cleansing as we stay in heavy and aggressive territiory but drop into a cleanly sung, more melodic and quite soothing chorus. If anything, the cleans offer a contrast in the track that makes the uncleans seem even more powerful than they already do. Add in the wicked riffs and rhythms and it’s a track that’s gonna get a lot of playtime from me.
Trauma Euphoria has a supremely catchy intro. I love the rhythm, it’s a mover. The whole flow of this track, the groove, the ferocity of the verses – it all impresses and then the chorus hits and you have a surefire hit on your hands. The wonderfully sung, emotion packed, euphoric cleans are a delight on the senses and that age old combination of heavy verses and clean choruses shows why it has proved so popular over the decades. This is a wonderful track.
We head into the final portion of Negative Energy with It’s not the end. At near 6 minuites, it’s by far the longest track on the album starting with a gorgeous, cleanly sung style that lulls you in with it’s ringing guitars and soothing vocals. Once you are firmly lulled in, that’s when it kicks you in the ass, suddenly switching to a crunch of riffs and drums with venomously roared vocals. There is a lot of back and forth with vocals styles in this one, lots of different tones and ranges used and it makes for a fun and exciting song. Musically, the drums and guitars switch with the vocals offering up almost ethereal passages with layers of echos and soft beats before a metallic crunch takes over for the heavier parts.
The penultimate track is called DMT and is used as an intro to the album closer, Nepotism. DMT is a soft track with a little bit of spoken word/sampling over a tingling melody. It doesn’t lead directly into Nepotism but just really resets you, and gets you in the right mindframe for a wicked track, in Nepotism, that hits hard with progressive drum beats and crunchy riffs. Vocals are barked viciously and at pace in a track that makes sure Vexed leave a lasting impact. Its a punchy track with an infectious flow and some downright dirty vocals that closes Negative Energy out in style.
Vexed have really come into their own with Negative Energy. An album that oozes class and style, is jam packed with ingenuity and creativity but all while remaining brutally open and honest. Exploring topics that hold so much meaning for so many of us, they offer a pathway to momentary release and understanding. Similar in parts, I think to some of Oceans recent work exploring mental health, both in stye and substance, Vexed have released an album that feels important.
It is well produced, nice and crunchy, polished but with a raw tinge that suits the topics covered. The drums throughout are wonderful, as are the guitars with both instruments really putting it all out there showing mastery of many styles and transitioning between them. The vocals are immense with an astonishing range displayed throughout. Negative Energy will really put Vexed on the map so if you haven’t heard of them yet, now is the time to get onboard what will soon be an unstoppable train.
Preorder a copy of Negative Energy from Napalm Records, here.
Negative Energy by Vexed (Napalm Records)
The Final Score - 9/10