Thursday, February 12, 2015

Album Review: Vision Of Disorder - The Cursed Remain Cursed

I don't know why it always takes me so long to sink my teeth into a Vision Of Disorder release, they always seem to deliver once you give it a chance. I remember first hearing 'Element' on some Road Runner sampler release and being really impressed with it. That first self-titled record was the only album from them that I never really dug, file it away as finding your footing I guess, or my own. Two years later I bought 'Imprint' on a complete spur of the moment and was completely blown away by it, five star fucking album. Those raw, swirling guitars and that relentless momentum throughout the whole thing - such a unique and identifiable sound. It was a seizure happening somewhere between NY Hardcore and West Coast Skater Punk - kind of sounded like something those five guys you knew down the street growing up could have bulls-eyed with after decades of garage rehearsals.

Their third official LP 'From Bliss To Devastation' was a leap away from it's predecessor, fronting a more polished sound and a more hard rock direction; I bought it hoping for another 'Imprint' and needless to say shelved that fucker after a couple of rotations. It was a good three years until I came back to it, and when I did I was able to embrace it for what it was, genuinely. It's really a hell of a hard rock album, still wielding their unique sound, but a bit more dynamic and clear enough to really see all the dirt underneath the fingernails. Slower and with a way more structured and traditional songwriting approach, but still wielding sharp enough of an edge to cut you, balancing a sonic and thematic line somewhere between the sleaze of Appetite-era Guns N' Roses and the dark of Alice In Chains' 'Facelift' (not comparing, just combining) - and once I kind of observed it in that light I wound up really getting off to it.

From what I understand from internet sewing circles, that change in sound not only drove away a number of fans, but also ended up splitting the band. Bassist Mike Fleishmann and drummer Brendan Cohen went on to form a band called Karnov ( name...ever), and vocalist Tim Williams and Guitarist Mike Kennedy became Bloodsimple, whose two releases front a similar sound to the writing style on 'From Bliss To Devastation', only a bit more commercial (this song rocks though).

Well, 11 years later the band got their shit together and released 'The Cursed Remain Cursed', and I gotta say it's pretty fuckin' good. All those layered little dynamics that made 'From Bliss To Devastation' seem so polished are gone again. This record  sounds like five guys plugged in, hit record and started playing the shit they just wrote and rehearsed an hour ago - in a good way. Compared to their previous full lengths the sound is thin on 'The Cursed Remain Cursed', and admittedly it takes a couple of tracks to get used to - kind of like when Biohazard's 'Mata Leao' first came out - but once you start breathing that fluid this album is a blindfolded roller coaster ride jumping the track. VOD are amazing at zigging where you expect a zag, and that's one of the characteristics that made 'Imprint' so memorable, well there's a lot of that here. There's a song on 'Imprint' called 'Jada Bloom', and in it the band pieces together something kind of beautiful made completely out of ugly parts - VOD really hone in on that on TCRC - but not so much so that it becomes tired or predictable, the opposite in fact - something comes along amongst the spit flying hardcore/thrash frenzy that really rises above everything else, and then it's gone. You'd like to hear it again, but in order to do so you have to manually go back - so it leaves you impressed and wanting more.

This is one of those records where, except for a couple of watermarks here and there, on the first couple of listens all the songs kind of blend in together. There's not a whole lot of effect pedal wanking going on (but when there is it's awesome - check out a third of the way thru 'Annihilator') and I dig that from a band like this, because it just makes the whole thing seem like letting the song writing speak for itself. It can also be a bit exhausting, by the time track 9, 'New Order Of Ages' plays through I felt myself starting to get a bit numb to the whole experience, but VOD save some of the best for last in both 'Beat Up On It' (were those gang vocals!?) and the closest-thing-to-not-a-ballad on the album 'Heart And Soul', which dangles you in the air for a bit before swinging you into a brick wall - spoiler alert.

That being said, I also feel that TCRC is a front to back listen. Sampling a track here and there was the mistake I was making for the last two years, every song on here lends energy to both the tracks before it and after, a sum of the whole if you will. Nothing on here is a ball-crusher by itself (maybe 'Annihilator'), but together they serve as a concussive buckshot to the temporal lobe.

'The Cursed Remain Cursed' is a nice mix of their two previous efforts - and by that I mean it feels about 65% Imprint and 35% From Bliss To Devastation - you can figure out which parts when you hear it (though 'Skullz Out' feels like it came almost directly from the latter's sessions). After the hiatus I'm pleased to hear them come back this way - with a thousand little cuts rather than trying to steamroll over you, because it's what they do best. Once you're in and going you're slapped with the realization of that unique Vision Of Disorder sound, and you can't help but feel that this is it stripped away of all it's bells and whistles. 'Imprint' to me is a hard record to top, but I gotta admit after just a few listens this fucker lasts the rounds. Ask me in another 11 years and I may have a different answer for you.

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