Balmog has been one of the strongest forces in Spanish black metal scene for a number of years, with their sophomore full length Svmma Fide serving as a particular high point of 2015. Since that time the band has continued to push forward and spread their variant of darkness and hatred, releasing splits with Nakkiga and Sartegos that have ultimately lead up to their third full length Vacvvm. For those that have spent time with the band previously this effort feels like a natural progression where the writing delivers even stronger hooks that get under your skin almost immediately, but even if you’re a newcomer you’re likely to find this an album that balances haunting ambiance and overwhelming instrumentation that is a perfect representation of what makes black metal so powerful.
Where plenty of black metal albums opt for an ominous and slow-paced intro that leads into their attack, Vacvvm starts off a bang. The one-minute opener “Qui immolatus iam non moritur…” is a whirlwind of frantic riffing and drumming that smacks you right in the face, and it serves as a perfect lead in to the rest of the material. From here Balmog strikes a balance between faster riffing where the layers of sound merge together in a way that feel like they’re going to crush you with the sheer amount of force and slower sections where a darker, grimier atmosphere seeps in. There are some familiar elements at work throughout the course of the album as the instrumentals incorporate twisting and turning melodies that are reminiscent of Swedish black metal, but the strength of the writing here makes each song stand on its own and have some sort of hook that will stick with you. Balmog is once again supported by a recording that provides enough clarity to let its atmosphere grow to immense levels while still having just the right amount of power devotees to the genre expect. Vacvvm is a slightly shorter album than its predecessor and has fewer interludes, with the three and a half minute “Inde Deus Abest” serving as a brief reprieve before the group doubles down on its attack. It’s a consistently strong showing from beginning to end, though the second half of the record deserves to be noted as the last three songs are some of the most haunting and jagged riffs Balmog has written to date.
Vocalist B. has delivered a consistent amount of intensity throughout the band’s material and this is no different on Vacvvm. His pitch sticks hovers between the lower and higher ends of the spectrum, often coming through as a raspy scream that is capable of hitting some higher ranges that are sure to send chills down your spine. With the mix coming through in a similar manner as Svmma Fide, B. hovers over the instrumentals with a menacing and otherworldly presence. The vocals and guitar leads work in tandem to create songs that display true darkness and this has been taken to the next level on Balmog’s latest effort.
Vacvvm isn’t as much of a radical shift as Svmma Fide was from the band’s earlier material, but it further refines the songwriting and displays Balmog’s ability to stand out in a crowded genre. With just the right mix of swirling chaotic madness and brooding darkness, this is an album one can get truly lost in. If you have yet to experience this group for yourself it’s highly recommended as this is one of the black metal highlights of 2018. Vacvvm is available from War Anthem Records and BlackSeed Productions.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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