A must-listen experimental and rapturous Death Metal album presented by a long-serving Canadian metaller.
Conceived by sole member Chris Shaver in early 2014 in the city of Armstrong, located in British Columbia, Canada, as a merger of Chris’ past bands Godcursed (2004-2014), Morbid Darkness (1989-2014) and Worms Of The Birth (2011-2014), what you will find in the music by Experimental Death Metal project VHOD is a metallic torrent of different genres and subgenres of heavy music, blending elements from all his past works with new concepts and a substantial amount of progressiveness. If you’re already familiar with the music Chris is capable of crafting, you’ll undoubtedly love VHOD, and if you’re a newcomer to his 25-year old metal kingdom, get ready for an amazing sonic experience.
It took Chris a few months at his own studio (Artery Studios) to finalize VHOD’s first full-length album, entitled Dreamcleaver, featuring exclusive artwork by artist Jeni Fitts (Provoking Drama), and the result couldn’t have been more ferocious and harmonious, which makes me wonder how satisfied Chris might be right now with his newborn “creature”. Although this isn’t his first release under the VHOD banner, having already recorded a considerable amount of singles and EP’s, including a four-piece concept EP for his Tor-saga, it’s now in Dreamcleaver where Chris was able to showcase all his abilities as a musician, also pointing to the direction his music will most probably follow from now on.
As soon as you start listening to the opening track Still The Blood, with highlights to its truly metallic sounding and the primeval growls by Chris, you’ll find yourself in the eye of a Death/Thrash Metal tornado. This is indeed a progressive and at the same time visceral tune, with nice guitar solos at the end to provide it some extra fuel, followed by the less progressive and extremely destructive The Spectre’s Behest, where Chris puts the “pedal to Death Metal” and multiplies his offensive abilities, reaching an incredible level of devastation in an more than exciting chant. And again bringing elements of Thrash Metal, On The Tree Of Woe presents our multi-instrumentalist warrior vociferating his lines while instrumental parts create an atmosphere of evil and bestiality. Despite its piercing guitar riffs and endless electricity being the most important elements of the entire song, its second part also deserves our attention, when Chris focuses on a more introspective and apocalyptical vibe.
The next track, So Pass Away/Locus Mortis, is not only a solid tune where progressive lines and pure hardcore riffs are perfectly blended, but the bestial growling by Chris (especially during its chorus) makes it feel like the Death Metal played by Cannibal Corpse when they slow down, but still as heavy as hell, with its somewhat anguished ending increasing its impact. And in the Death/Doom Metal song Dragon Sand, a “solitary” beat kicks it off before melancholy and hopelessness begin emanating from its riffs and rhythm, with that dark energy going on until the end of the song in a great display of musicianship. Focusing on a more traditional and faster musicality, we have Reap The Harvest, offering a good mixture of blast beats and heavy riffs and solos, and if Chris puts together a band for live performances I believe this is one of the best songs to be added to the setlist.
In Now Underground, “forget” about the devilish Death Metal offered so far, as there’s a switch to a completely different sounding the likes of Opeth, or in other words, a darker version of Progressive Metal. Chris delivers high doses of experimentations and a somber ambience in a surprisingly enjoyable break from the previous madness, but that’s just until the high-speed Flesh For Our Swords begins: this tune proves that VHOD can provide an infinite mix of genres and subgenres of heavy music with its Melodic Death Metal vibe boosted by the old school growls by Chris. Moreover, it doesn’t actually feel like “just” a one-man band due to its organic sounding and infinite electricity, not to mention its awesome bass lines punching you in the head all the time. Lastly, Obsequies is only an eerie instrumental “intro” (which could have been slightly shorter, by the way) to the title-track Dreamcleaver, an amazing exhibit of fast and furious Death Metal, including elements from Punk Rock, Hardcore, Thrash Metal and more. It’s the best song of the album in my humble opinion and a lesson in how to transform guitar riffs into endless fuel for the sonic havoc proposed, as even with almost eight minutes the music never loses its grip. In addition, Chris’ vocals remind me of Johan Hegg from Amon Amarth, giving the song a more pugnacious approach.
To sum up, VHOD might be considered just a project by many, including its architect Chris Shaver, but the quality of the music presented by this one-man infantry in Dreamcleaver is so impressive it becomes a must-listen for lovers of extreme and multi-layered metal. All things VHOD can be found at the band’s Facebook page and YouTube channel, and you will soon find Dreamcleaver for purchase at VHOD’s BandCamp page or at the Inverse Records webshop, if you consider yourself one of those death metallers who carry that passion for progressiveness in your black heart.
Best moments of the album: The Spectre’s Behest, So Pass Away/Locus Mortis and Dreamcleaver.
Worst moments of the album: Obsequies.
Released in 2015 Inverse Records
1. Still The Blood 5:07
2. The Spectre’s Behest 3:36
3. On The Tree Of Woe 7:09
4. So Pass Away/Locus Mortis 6:56
5. Dragon Sand 7:23
6. Reap The Harvest 4:37
7. Now Underground 5:21
8. Flesh For Our Swords 5:20
9. Obsequies 3:23
10. Dreamcleaver 7:49
Chris Shaver – vocals, all Instruments