Well, well – what do we have here? Another band from New Zealand, priming to make waves throughout the underground? Why, yes, it does appear that way. And go figure, Iron Bonehead is all over it. Always on the cutting edge of the best and brightest emerging acts, Iron Bonehead is releasing the debut album from New Zealand’s Verberis on three formats, and it honestly doesn’t take much detective work to find out why.
Emerging from the pits of utter desolation, providing no information about its members, I suspect Verberis probably has some key names from the New Zealand underground to their credit; but speculation aside, their debut Vexamen is a grade-A slab of modern Black/Death that covers a lot of ground across its 59 minute framework. The running time alone should tell you this album is either going to be really interesting, or really drawn out. The fact that Verberis hails from New Zealand should tell you its going to be the former, and not the latter. For throughout its lengthy running time, Verberis manages to keep you completely engaged with their well-pointed songwriting acumen and attention to detail. It seems clear as the album opens and progresses onward that they know exactly what they’re doing, what feelings they want to evoke, and when to do so.
Indeed, the real charm of Vexamen lies in the fact that all thoughts, feelings, and attitudes are channeled through a kaleidoscope of black, death, and occasionally, doom metal. From the opening instrumental burst you immediately feel something of a death metal core, but heavily tinged with the bleak harmonics and void-driven aesthetic of black metal. And the effect of this merging of sensibilities across the album’s spectrum is really attention-grabbing. The first three songs are quite raucous and driving, some of the most “to the point” songs on the album, as “The Primordial Rift” and the title track race onward and upward with pulsing rhythms, and intersplicing currents brimming with divine sparks. However, there is an interesting acoustic outro to the title track that seems to signal a transition, as it eerily twangs and echoes the last 30 seconds with great foreboding.
And it’s with “Protogonos” picking up next that another layer of Verberis begins to reveal itself. Much darker and more mystical than what preceded, “Protogonos” is rife with primeval enchantment and splendor. In fact, the title itself refers to a Greek deity of procreation and new life, and as you keep this in mind at this crucial moment in the album, the aforementioned feelings that come forth resonate with greater depth and clarity. “Protogonos” may very well be my favorite song on this record. The longest track at this point, the strength and prowess of its subtleties cannot be understated, and repeated listens reveal the great illumination coursing through its make up as soul-stirring chords appear early in its undercurrent, before fleshing out in full in the closing minutes with a fast finish that leaves your interest peaked at just the right moment.
Label: Iron Bonehead
There are plenty of choice moments left on this record, as each track that follows is longer than the one preceding it, save for the instrumental “Vereri” and “Fangs of Pazuzu.” And throughout these tracks, the specter of what Vexamen embodies becomes more apparent. A jolting upheaval to all order and preconceived notions, the smokeless fire of Verberis extinguishes all illusions with fury as an all-knowing mystic might. “Charnel Vibrations” and “Flagellum de Igne” trade weighty blows, with the former displaying a palatable ebb and flow complete with more subtle genius within its depths, whereas “Flagellum…” is more straightforward and scathing in its aims, razing the landscape without the slightest hint of remorse.
But lo and behold, the last 30 seconds include another one of those eerie, acoustic outros, perhaps signaling another transition in the manifold of this great work. “The Gaping Hollow of Divinity” follows, and throughout its running time one can sense the denunciation of those who claim to have the answers and the exaltation of infinity with all its ever-present mysteries. Forlorn and purging all at once, “The Gaping Hollow of Divinity” pulses with meditative measures and sequences that overflow with endless searching and wonder. The end result is a song profound in dynamics, forming the perfect amalgamation of styles and exacting the Truth in all its terrifying glory.
Next, “Fangs of Pazuzu” is as brutal and intense as one would imagine, departing from the lengthy song structures beforehand and delivering unto the listener a storming ferocity before the instrumental dread of “Vereri” sets the stage with solemn keys for the great crescendo of Vexamen, the 10 minute closing track entitled “Voidwards.” And damn, what a closer it is. Long, winding sequences of radiating rhymes tease and churn with the same overarching mystique present throughout the album, but with even greater magnitude, as this beast of a song goes by in a flash, almost effortlessly in such a manner that one must imagine that Verberus were but conduits for a greater source of power than themselves here.
The last few minutes wind and rumble, rising and falling as the great work comes to an end, but ultimately finishing with mad fervor and driving percussion, as Verberis speed toward the void with open arms, transcending all matter and form in order to reach their goal. And with this, I say Vexamen is an incredibly complex, well-thought-out debut album from these shadowy figures, one that I highly recommend. But know that an album as enchanting as Vexamen is also very subtle, and thus has many secrets. Secrets that are perhaps only detectable by the dedicated; nay – by those initiated. In any case, full support to these faceless vessels of the void!