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Review: VHOD – Dreamcleaver

VHOD is the work of one man: Chris Shaver. Described as a combination of past projects and progressing elements, VHOD brings death metal to the table in this 10 track album called Dreamcleaver. Check Dreamcleaver and many other releases out on Bandcamp!

Dreamcleaver is different from a lot of other death metal releases for a few reasons. It features gritty growls, a rather different guitar tone, nice solos, and great riffs. Some of the songs are a bit long, but it honestly goes by quick. Dreamcleaver has atmospheric, brutal, and groovy bits that blend together seamlessly; sometimes in one song. Before you get to any atmospheric/moody vibes, “Still the Blood” starts it off just like you would want a death metal record to start out: fast and heavy. The lyrics are pronounced clearly (so you can hear when he says “Still the Blood”) and there is a sick solo playing alongside rhythmic chugging and drums that ease up a bit. The blend from heavy to the more chord-oriented atmosphere isn’t sudden, as “The Spectre’s Behest” continues what “Still the Blood” started. Of course, the riffs are different, there is not a solo, the structure is different, and it is 2 minutes shorter. “The Spectre’s Behest” has a more demonic sound than “Still the Blood” did, with pitch shifted vocals chiming in for an appropriate amount of demon.

“On the Tree of Woe” is where chords ring out and the room gets dark. While the intro has a back and forth kind of riff playing while something darker lurks beneath, but doesn’t actually fully enter until a little bit later. Expect switching between heavy and melodic with this song. Just when you think you can lay back and sip on your favorite drink, you have to get up and headbang a bit. Take no seat as a really sweet solo grips your ears, sending you on your way to a grim land of doom. That is all.

Get back to the groovy with “So Pass Away/Locus Mortis.” That chugging intro is so simple, yet so nice. How can one resist? “So Pass Away/Locus Mortis” channels a classic metal vibe because of the chugging and chorus. Separating the awesome first half from the second half of the song is a melodic solo complete with ringing notes and display of technical skill. After said solo, some doom metal takes over to end the song righteously.

“Dragon Sand” slides in with the same doom sound “So Pass Away/Locus Mortis” ended on, so “Dragon Sand” is an appropriate name. From start to finish, this song takes it a bit easier than the others, but it is still a heavy doom song. Harmony chimes in once in a while as a nice accent on certain parts, but it doesn’t come in often so appreciate its presence. If you don’t like doom metal, you won’t like this song. It isn’t as slow as a lot of doom bands are, but the music remains doom.

Do not lose hope death metal fans! Speed and heaviness return on “Reap the Harvest.” There is actually a black metal-esque undertone throughout the entire song and it’s quite tasteful. The rawness and blast beats black metal usually features are on “Reap the Harvest.” It is a dominantly death metal song with deep growls and a nice hook towards the end.

“Flesh for Our Swords” carries an air of melodic death, thrash (and even metalcore towards the end) in its gait. The song progression follows an easy pattern with a pretty catchy chorus playing fairly often. The oddly brash guitar tone seems to suit what is being played more so than some of the other songs, namely “Dragon Sand” and parts of “So Pass Away/Locus Mortis.” With lyrics of barbaric violence, a solo, and many riffs, “Flesh for Our Swords” is a genuinely metal song; what more can I say?

The final and title track ends Dreamcleaver just as it started: with headbanging death metal. The riffs are played quick and jump between each other quick. Just as most of the other songs, the solo played after a few minutes and was harmonious with the main riff. This 7:49 long song had a divide at around

4:30, at which point did the song turn into a metal ballad. You know the type: slowed down, not so aggressive drums, repetitive groove for a minute or longer, slow progression into something slightly heavier, but not really. Well that’s exactly what happened at that 4:30 ish mark. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but I can’t say it’s tasteless because it does give a sense of finality and is quite appropriate for a final track. Before that 4:30 point though, the song was going great and had a lot of good things going for it.

There are 2 songs I didn’t mention because they were both interludes of some sort, although “Now Underground” is 5:22 long. I don’t find interludes or songs like “Now Underground” and “Obsequies” necessary in an album so forget about them. Getting back to Dreamcleaver as a whole: it was good and pretty versatile (especially if you include those 2 interludes). The riffs were very interesting, most songs were good headbangers, and the solos were very tasteful. The only true complaint I have is that the bass was silent. I couldn’t hear one bass note on any song. If that was intended then there’s no issue, but there isn’t enough information given to tell if there actually is bass anywhere on Dreamcleaver. The production sounded genuine and raw. I liked that Dreamcleaver spanned a few genres because it doesn’t occur that often. I would have preferred shorter songs, but I won’t complain because these were good to listen to. At times the vocals reminded me of Johan Hegg (Amon Amarth), so that’s cool. Check VHOD out if you are a fan of Amon Amarth or I Chaos. The rating is based off of how often I see myself listening to this, which in this case has been reduced due to the lengthy songs and interludes. Other than that, it does have great moments.

Rate: 7.4/10

Rate if you don’t like doom: 6.8-7/10

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