By Keith Carman
When considering the term “crossover” in extreme music circles, many fans have a pretty linear concept: it’s the amalgamation of heavy metal’s technicality with hardcore punk’s confrontational aggression. Consideration is rarely given to the notion of taking such influences and hammering them over the anvil of progressive dexterity, filtering it through doom-influenced imposition and washing the whole thing with a thick coat of grindcore. Still, such a union of disparity is the crux of Toronto-based quartet Vilipend, an exercise that reaches critical mass on latest venture Northern Hostility—Live In Ajax. At the band’s onset, connotations to monstrous, combative acts such as Buzzov*en, Eyehategod and Kittens would pour forth with praising ease yet over the course of the past few years, the outfit has refined into an autonomous beast unto itself, a reality this half-hour blast of technically-charged dissonance readily proves.
While a live album seems odd this early in their career, as Northern Hostility—Live In Ajax unfolds, we understand just how appropriate such a move actually is. Detonating with opener “Failings For Friends,” the band’s seamless attack is charged with composed barbarism; these frenetic beasts unleash an aural thunder offset by randy chord arpeggios, inhuman bellowing and furious drums, making for captivatingly opposing moments of balls-out fury and eerie ambience. The introduction for “Dulling Silver” alone provides one of the dirtiest, most sordid and unrepentant bass sounds this side of early Mayhem while “The Thin Red Line Between Salvation And Damnation” asserts the band’s ability to create a droning masterpiece that churns with enthrallingly malicious intent. Factor in some great off-the-cuff comments with relentless delivery and by closer “To Impede The Healing Process,” we’re just as thrilled yet exhausted as the band itself. Moreover, unlike the majority of live albums, production assures each instrument properly represented. Drums smash away behind the aforementioned earth-shattering bass, sharp guitars and crystal clear vocals. In fact, one can safely assume that this recording features exponentially superior sound quality than on the night it was recorded.
Essentially, while Vilipend has a pristine track record thanks to creative dexterity and oppressive heaviness fuelled by overt originality, when experiencing the vitriol, embittered passion and tormented rage of an act such as this through a live album, one really feels the self-abuse, throat-tearing screams and constricting viciousness. At that, while previous efforts have delivered the hostility, nothing comes close to this barbaric assault on one of Toronto’s bedroom communities.
(The Path Less Travelled)