Album Review: ERDVE Vaitojimas
The promotional information for Erdve includes the usual extreme metal buzzwords such as "score to the dystopian world crashing down" and "soundtrack to a world gone truly mad." That said, it is the press kit's comparably straightforward declaration that the music is "an especially hostile attack" that rings most accurate.Vaitojimas is undoubtedly an especially hostile attack. It's a remorseless assault on the senses that is both violent and punishing from start to finish. So yeah, it's heavy — one of the angriest albums I've heard in recent memory — and if that's all you're looking for, the Lithuanian quartet's debut album is sure to please. That's not necessarily a glowing recommendation, however.
Erdve's sound is an uncompromising patchwork of hardcore punk and sludge metal. It's about as caustic as the mixture of those genres or the record's bleak cover art would suggest. The title track drills that fact home the moment the record opens—kicking things off with an agonized scream, chunky, pounding riffs and a production that is almost suffocating in its murky ugliness. Aside from several moments of slowed and atmospheric sludge that completely miss their mark; Erdve mostly maintains the same mid-paced brutality throughout the following five tracks.
A lack of nuance is hardly a bad thing if what's presented works well. Thankfully, Vaitojimas works fairly well when it simply lets itself be oppressively heavy. On the album's better songs, such as the aforementioned title track or the lengthy "Prievarta," one pretty much knows how each song is going to generally play out within the first minute or so. Yet, nonetheless, they pull the listener in despite their relative structural simplicity. There's a small scattering of twists and turns that do just enough to keep things from becoming rote, but overall, there's not much in the way of astounding technical flourishes or vocal variations here. Though far from spectacular, the performances are thankfully solid enough to forgive the lack of diversity.
Vaitojimas is far from perfect, and we'll get to that in a moment. First, let's appreciate the astonishingly high note the record ends on. "Atraja" closes the record in dazzling fashion and is the record's finest track by a considerable margin. There's a fantastic mix of slow-burning dissonant riffage and spurts of manic speed, tied together with the record's best screams and even some nice audible bass work. The song alone might be worth the price of admission. This could've been one of 2018's early standouts if it were representative of Vaitojimas as a whole.
Unfortunately, Vaitojimas falls flat on its face when it tries to mix up the formula. "Isnara" and "Pilnatve" boast the album's longest sections of quiet quasi-ambiance and gradual buildups—and suffer greatly for it. Erdve does sheer heaviness well enough, but the slower, predominantly sludgy moments lack both hypnotic, immersive elements or the ability to create any sort of interesting soundscape. It just grates. They're aggressive and loud, I guess, but neither is good. This is a serious issue since they're the record's longest tracks and constitute over a third of its runtime.
"Apverktis" is the only song where these elements sort of work out. A bit over half of the instrumental song is dominated by a somewhat lackadaisical (but far less egregious than the slower moments in the prior tracks) albeit sufficiently enticing riff before positively exploding in a crushing, intense cacophony that serves as one of the record's standout moments. Elsewhere, the vast majority of the material that isn’t to-the-point angriness simply fails to hold up. Vaitojimas runs for about 37 minutes, and that brevity is probably for the best. While "Atraje” is a memorable closer; I doubt that this kind of rigid abrasiveness would've been listenable for much longer than that.
Erdve's debut record is not without its flaws but there’s more good than bad here. While Vaitojimas is not exactly a pleasant listen; it has more than enough quality content to justify at least a few spins.