Atomic Café on Ontario Street East is hardly the kind of venue that screams “metal.”; a 1950s nostalgia décor, bizarre works of art hanging from the wall, and the presence of lighting. However, it was the plaster of these very walls that Montreal’s own Vantablack Warship made a mission of dislodging on the 26th of September. The occasion: the October 9th release of their debut self-titled EP, a lukewarm album that shows some metal prowess, but too often feels like a parody of the genre.
The band’s members, veterans of Montreal’s punk and metal scenes, took to the stage just shy of 11:00, and immediately launched into “Irreversible Kill,” conjuring imminent doom with a slow, grinding riff. It’s one of the most memorable moments from the album, and could have made a powerful opening. Instead, the band kicks off their EP with “You’ll Burn for This,” an angry political diatribe laid over a repetitive blast beat which is unfortunately the album’s weakest song. It’s not fair to say this sets the tone for the next 20 minutes, since the band’s performances do have their moments; the twin guitars of Pat Gordon and Thierry Hivon grind, chug, and churn out a handful of effective riffs, at key moments, taking a backseat to Kurt Clifford’s heavy, thundering bass; drummer Pierre Pitre thankfully doesn’t rely too heavily on typical blast beats, introducing a decent amount of rhythmic variety. The end result is palatable (usually), but not much else. For all its passion and aggression, Vantablack Warship never reaches out and punches you in the stomach the way you’d hope an album of its kind would.
Even with the cacophony of the rest of the band threatening to smother Yannick Pilon’s voice, his words, co-written by Clifford, are surprisingly intelligible. They demonstrate a deeply political slant within the band, covering topics as far-ranged as the Occupy Wall Street Movement (“The 99%”) and the Islamic State (“Irreversible Kill”). However, nothing in the lyrics is ever concrete or direct enough to illicit any real emotional reaction. It gets worse; the inexplicably titled “From Silents to Haunting Possessions” pays tribute to B-movie slasher flicks in a way that gives the whole song a cheesy, Rob Zombie-esque vibe, except that it’s played totally straight. “Irreversible Kill” finds Pilon screaming “Bow to your knees/ I’ll shoot your head off,” again without a trace of irony.
Of course, all of this is of little consequence live, since Yannick Pilon’s voice is only a blip in the overwhelming din of the band, and it’s here that he really shows off his prowess as a frontman. More than his voice or his words, it’s his enormous stage presence that makes him an asset. Jumping into the crowd and trying to drum up a mosh pit is probably a lost cause when the audience only numbers 50 people, but the spirit of it is commendable.
Of course it’s not always appropriate to judge a band based on their first EP, but it’s hard to tell if the group really has any farther to go when its individual members have been around so long. Vantablack Warship may have burst onto the scene with all guns blazing, but don’t be disappointed when you emerge from their onslaught untouched.
Album Rating: 6.0/10
Written By: Ian Down
Originally Published: September 2015