By Kyle Harcott
Howled rage and desperation: A world-negating despair that crawls around the brain like diseased myriapods; Convulsing, virulent sickness at the continual forced observation of your ruinous species; the coldness of black space outside of time. Tasmanians (by way of Melbourne) Thrall capture all of these on their intense sophomore effort, Vermin to the Earth.
Paeans to the destruction of mankind, the seven tracks writhe in equal parts disgust and resigned dismissal, awaiting the foregone and inevitable conclusion. No iota of redemption or shred of hope here, barring the clenched-jaw acquiescence that embraces wholesale annihilation.
The title track rears up with bared blastbeat teeth, roaring out of the gate like some wounded, feral predator; then backs itself, mid-tempo, into a corner foaming and snarling, seething with abhorrence and cursing the listener. ‘Oblivion’, next, treads a path of latter-day Darkthrone – dirty and venomous, but with the kind of production that’s autoclaved most of the crust away.
At times, the clean, gaunt production and evolved songwriting throughout Vermin to the Earth seems to belie its genocidal intent. Whether veering near shoegaze (the intro of ‘Disease’s Maiming Caress’), crawl-paced, wailing funeral doom (‘Plague of Man’), or hurled into the black claustrophobic bleakness of space (‘Mass Extinction’), the guitars are never not crisp and ringing. The drums are forceful and driving, but subdued in the mix, and the bass is pushed up just enough to provide a welcome grounding. Were it not for the bile-choked vocals icily reminding you of humanity’s proliferation as comparable to that of ‘a fucking disease’, the musical production is almost warm in tone.
And while the clarity and cold sterility of that production stands out as unique, to me the lack of filth-slithering aesthetic in the mix occasionally seems incongruous with the record’s violently misanthropic treatise. At times throughout, I find myself wanting to figuratively pour black tar over the guitars, steep the bass in rotting human compost, fill the drum shells with cigarette butts – in order to make the music sound as congruously vomitous as the vocals and lyrics spewing forth.
But that’s a minor and quiet nit-pick from me. The sound on Vermin is top-notch in comparison to Thrall’s previous outing, last year’s Away From the Haunts of Men, and ultimately serves the band extremely well. The songwriting too has evolved leaps and bounds, and Thrall has fiercely developed a signature sound only hinted at on the previous disc’s back half (in songs like ‘Ranks Webs’).
Vermin to the Earth is a bleak, vicious, and razor-sharp swipe at the gut. No warning bites here, Thrall make it clear they will not rest until they see/bring forth complete annihilation.