Let's get this out of the way: VHÖL includes members of bands that have put out some of my favorite metal albums of the last few years. Guitarist John Cobbett and bassist Sigrid Sheie are in Hammers of Misfortune, Mike Scheidt fronts YOB, and Aesop Dekker drums for Agalloch (among many other bands). Unsure of what to expect from this jumble of progressive, doom and black metal musicians, the band's self-titled debut is a thunderously raw and adventurous album that doesn't sound like the sum of its parts.
Seconds into "Insane With Faith," Cobbett and Dekker's telepathic connection from their previous band, Ludicra, is immediate. But that's where the Ludicra comparisons end. Dekker has mentioned U.K. hardcore pioneers Discharge as a reference point for VHÖL and the relentless D-beat drums burn into the very "blackened skies" Scheidt wails about in the short but crucial chorus. But for all of the melodic, double-helix guitar leads and Dekker and Sheie's snarling rhythm section, the wildcard is Mike Scheidt. In the span of a minute, the singer switches maniacally between Venom-ous rasps, hardcore barks and fourth-dimensional Rob Halfordian wails. It all threatens to run off the rails and sometimes it does, in glorious mayhem.
VHÖL is out April 16 on Profound Lore Records.