Vulture Industries Fares Better Than Buzzards LLC on The Tower
Admittedly, there’s a significant cheesiness quotient that’s met on Vulture Industries’ The Tower. But instead of a grating wink of self-awareness or a dunderheaded charge into lousy metal, it approaches unconventional metal in an expertly balanced way. The band’s style is fluid, running between Enslaved-style blackened prog and Mike Patton-grade carnival barkery. So while it doesn’t have the panoramic bleakness of Altar of Plagues’ Teethed Glory and Injury or the polar reversal of Deafheaven’s Sunbather, its smart choices make for a damn fine metal record. Elements of wackiness do rear their goofy heads, but it works. The Tower is both a granite slab of moody European metal and an amusingly flexible chunk of heavy prog.
They key to The Tower’s likability is in the band knowing their limits. They don’t push the envelope too far and stumble when trying to pull off some Cult of Luna shit, but they also don’t churn out another hour’s worth of milquetoast, Wacken-designed riffs. “The Hound,” an almost-ten minute song dropped into the first third of the record, has a significant amount of momentum, then builds to the kind of catchy chorus aging Swedish melodeath bands awkwardly lunge toward. And while it does dip dynamically in and out of valleys, it never veers too far out into the ether. Vulture Industries can write some good songs, so focus is key. The stuttering riffs that needle the beginning of “A Knife Between Us” bloom all over it after bowing out to let the song’s circus waltz rhythm breathe a little. Even a little throw-away like “The Dead Won’t Mind” (the only song on the album to clock in under 5 minutes) surrenders fully to vocalist Bjørnar Nilsen’s penchant for Nick Cave and Tom Waits, producing something substantial in what most bands would include only as a matter of course. The Tower is sculpted meticulously, but not to the degree where it sounds calculated.
Nilsen is the band’s ringer and biggest hindrance, though. While his atypical vocal style pulls this kind of metal out of the homogenous muck in which it usually finds itself trapped, part of his willingness to go over the top is that he can go way the fuck over it. But the occasional campy ominous whispering or mishandled vocal acrobatics don’t sink the band as a whole. Vulture Industries work well as a unit: whenever the band’s brand of Big Omnimetal threatens to become too bland, Bjørnar gives it a lift with something interesting. Whenever Nilsen gets too ridiculous, the band drop something gargantuan underneath, undercutting camp with greatness. It’s a good system, and Vulture Industries sound comfortable with it on The Tower. It takes the cooperation of both to bring out the excellence in each.