“Come for the food, stay for the atmosphere” is the phrase that comes to mind when contemplating Salem Vatem, the 2nd full length album from Krosis, the Raleigh, NC based progressive deathcore band. The food is the music served to us, filling our mental plate with meaty breakdowns while also providing a variety of different sounds, ranging from the sinister to the sublime, to satiate us and our ever narrowing attention spans. It draws you in, like an appendage of smoke extending from a freshly baked confection in a cartoon. The atmosphere is the large container that we and the mental dishes are preserved in. It’s more than making it to the fresh baked pie cooling on the windowsill, it’s arriving at that delicious dessert and diving in headfirst, submerging yourself in the piemordial ooze that rests within the walls of the tin pan it lies in. It’s not just what the music is telling us on a base level, it’s also about what we can interpret in regards to why the music sounds the way it has been presented to us.
For the perfect example of this, look no further than the song smack dab in the middle of the album, “Apathos Vacant”. In its eight plus minute run-time, it goes from an orchestral piece with an added electronic flair that sounds like it could be in one of the new Star Wars films, to deathcore combined with synthesizer flourishes and a feature from John Robert C. of The Last Ten Seconds of Life. Then, at the end, it throws a curve ball and becomes a string heavy outro with horns and synths that mimic electronic droplets of water. This eventually settles into what could easily be a departure theme for a young hero leaving their village for the first time. A flute begins to sound, and as breathtaking as it is, there’s also something off about it. It has a halo of dissonance surrounding it, as if the hero is, in that very moment, realizing that while their newfound freedom is uplifting, the weight of the world will warp this joy into simply another way to hold them down. Does this interlude explicitly state anything like that when we hear it? No, it doesn’t. Does the sound of the music allow us to appreciate the design of the container that seals the compositions and connect ourselves more to what’s in front of us by looking at what surrounds us? Absolutely.
In that regard, Solem Vatem excels. Honestly, it excels in pretty much every regard for a release in the progressive/technical deathcore field. The mix is tight and has enough punch to knock out a couple of teeth, while still allowing for the emotion of the humans playing the music to bare their souls via a space-y guitar solo in the background. It also, instead of being derivative, pulls from a wide selection of musical influences. One song you might hear clean vocals that sound like the ones prominently displayed by Michael Keene on The Faceless‘ Autotheism. Another song might make you think, “Wow, did Born of Osiris finally stop fucking around and start making music that slaps again?” On the last track “Terminus”, a seven minute adventure which features Duncan Bentley of Vulvodynia, there are some brutal death metal slams that will leave you wondering if a hole was torn in reality from the sheer brutality. The best part? It all feels like it was tailored to fit Krosis.
The variety of the music on display and how and where it is conveyed to us makes for an incredibly cohesive record. It leads us right back to the phrase, “Come for the food, stay for the atmosphere.” These dishes tempt with their promise of not only something palatable, but something that’s part of a bigger picture. Something that when you ingest, will guide you through a variety of flavors as it ruminates in your mouth, without feeling like it’s ever borrowing too heavily from one particular cuisine. The flavor is excellent, but just as important are the individual pieces that come together and allow that flavor to exist along with the personality of the space where it is contained, displayed and served. That right there? That’s what will keep you coming back again and again.
Solem Vatem is out now on Unique Leader Records, you can purchase it digitally at Unique Leader’s Bandcamp