Due for release on the 19th of June via Century Media Records, Gothenburg’s Vampire are back with their third studio album, Rex.
The Swedish death metal band formed in 2011 and have since released a demo, a split album with Miasmal, an EP and two full length studio albums. The last of those is 2017’s With Primeval Force. An album that was received well and grew the band’s fanbase, confirming they are definitely a band that can have a long and lasting impact on heavy metal.
Vampire are frontman Hand of Doom, guitarists Black String and Sepulchral Condor, bassist Command, and drummer Abysmal Condor. Vampire are immensely proud of what they have achieved with Rex. An album that the band feel has proven to be a tremendous sonic and compositional highlight in their career thus far.
Guitarist Black String states: “The new album “Rex” ended up as a quite consistent Vampire work. It’s a work of reverence to the desolate ways in life and the glorious metal of old. The spirit when writing this album was basically ‘do what has to be done’. “Rex” is generally more brave hearted when it comes to musical references than parts of our previous output.”
Frontman Hand of Doom adds: “The cover shows a figure that listeners are well acquainted with from several previous Vampire releases. This time around, The Reaper appears on horseback: laurel-crowned and triumphant, wielding both scythe and a black flag. What this says about the content of “Rex” is that a great deal of our artistic expression remains intact, but that we work with a grander, more heroic and celebratory register than ever before.”
The excellent artwork Hand of Doom references is designed by Mitchell Nolte.
So some bold claims overall and a band looking to expand on their original visceral sound? That is my excitement levels up to maximum for the 10 tracks and near 40 minutes of metal that follows. We get started with an intro track called Prelusion. Being less than 45 seconds long, it is designed to bed in the atmosphere and prepare you for what is coming. In that, it works well and what follows is about to blow your mind. Prelusion leads directly into the title track, Rex which is a fast and raucous affair.
Quick drums and some quick guitar work move things along at a fats pace. The vocals are gravelly and visceral, you can’t help but enjoy the waves of aggression washing over you. Little instrumental breaks in the song work brilliantly showcasing some flashy guitar lines and quick drum transitions. You do get a sense of the added elements Vampire are bringing with Rex. The death metal shines through but is backed nicely by energetic thrash influences and even a little crossover energy. It is a strong start.
That continues with Inspiritus and then Wiru-Akka. The former having a wicked grooving rhythm at the intro before slamming you hard with a crunch of riffs and blast of aggressive vocals. The latter goes for the jugular straight from the off with some insane drum blasts before chaos ensues. A huge roar and a matching guitar scream kick off a vicious attack that gets the adrenaline flowing dangerously. Wiru-Akka is an amazing song. When we drop into a mix of punchy rhythms and melodic leads for an instrumental section, well prepare for your jaw to drop.
Pandemoni starts with a bit of a traditional metal vibe. A crunchy riff with backing melodic leads screaming away is pure ear candy. It is a little more chaotic in the choruses and a bit tough to catch the rhythm some times. I love the solo too. It’s pure fire. Moloch switches things up next, dropping the pace to a steadier rhythm and allowing us to catch our breath, at least in the intro. The verses come back hard though with some absolute blackened styled vocals bedded into chaotic guitars and glorious rolling drums. It is a really creative track with an exciting structure and a blend of heavy genres on show. Moloch also has my favourite solo/instrumental section so far. It is the sort of stuff that makes you dream of being able to play guitar.
We are well into the back half of Rex now and it has flown by in a flurry of exciting and heavy metal. Rekviem comes next and is an explosive blast track with furious drumming and riffing. Vampire add just enough hints of melody through the lead guitars to prevent it damaging you too much though. There is an interesting end to though it comes out of the blue where the track suddenly stops and fades out to the sound of an organ. Serafim has a nice pace to it, dropping away from outright ferocity into a dark and sombre beat. There is a nice combination of old school sounding riffs with death metal vocals on top. The bass shines pushes through nicely in this track too though it doesn’t quite hit the same excitement levels of the previous songs.
The penultimate track is the longest on the album at near 6 and a half minutes long and is called Anima. This is a fantastic song. The extra time has given Vampire more time to express themselves creatively and they do. Starting with a brooding, doom like intro, we jump into a blackened track with eerie melodies and guttural growls. Anima is a cracking song. The riffs are great, the lead guitars are phenomenal, shining brightly when we hit the traditional sounding solos and instrumentals scattered throughout. This is up there with the best on Rex.
All good things must come to an end though and this excellent heavy metal album closes with Melek-Taus. The album ends as it started, and played through – with another top quality metal track. The guitars in the intro are sublime and lead into a wicked rhythm that will have every head in the vicinity banging away. The verses are violent, the choruses are dark and then it all gets lifted with a powerful and emotive solo that plays out, gently fading until all that is left is a gentle acoustic melody and then silence. Brilliant.
Vampire have really grown with Rex. It is a phenomenal album full of exhilarating and exciting compositions with very little let up. You can always tell when an album is good when you get lost in it and the 40 odd minutes seem to pass in seconds and that is what happens here. Vampire still hit as hard as ever, don’t worry about that. There are no ballads or acoustic lullabies here for you but they have evolved as all clever bands do. You wont hear many better death metal albums this year so don’t sleep on this one.
Preorder your copy of Rex by Vampire in all formats at this link.
Rex by Vampire (Century Media Records)
The Final Score - 9/10