Over the past few years (and specifically in 2018), I’ve been taken aback by the critical affinity with metalcore. It’s not just because of the music itself, though I’ll admit that I’m not particularly fond of recent critically acclaimed albums from bands like Code Orange and Vein. No, what really struck me is how these albums received heaps of praise from critics who have exhibited very distinct tastes when it comes to heavy music, preferences that are in contrast with the brand of metalcore they chose to celebrate.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, though it sets up one of my main points about Sole Impulse – this is the type of metalcore that I imagine critics would (and should) sing praises about. Not only is there plenty here for fans of the the genre’s bludgeoning side, but Vatican‘s approach to writing riffs and structuring their songs feels far more fresh and dynamic than their peers. The band might not be ushering in a new chapter in the evolution of metalcore, but they’re certainly providing something worth celebrating among both longtime fans and causal listeners.
First, a seemingly unflattering comparison which I hope you’ll stick with me on: Vatican remind me of Emmure, except…well, actually good. I don’t draw this comparison because of cringeworthy lyrics or an overabundance of binary breakdowns. Rather, the way Vatican write a number of their songs mirrors the more evolved moments in Emmure’s discography, especially during the Goodbye to the Gallows and The Respect Issue years. More specifically, Vatican take this groove-oriented, breakdown-centric, guitar-effect-laden brand of metalcore and use it as a launching point rather than the entire centerpiece of their sound.
They do this by pulling in apparent influences from across the metalcore spectrum. On songs like the title track, the band seemingly draw influence from classic albums by Misery Signals, Shai Hulud, Zao and others. The central riff on the track has a distinct melodic hook, but the guitar tone and aggressive delivery help the song retain its aggression. The band tinker with this approach throughout the album and produce some surprising developments deeper in the track list. The riff and drum combos on “Color My Grave Mine” and “Assemblage” sound like OG Born of Osiris tracks with the “prog” dialed way down, a pleasant surprise that’s all the more shocking for how well the band pulls it off.
To bring the Emmure reference full circle, Jonathan Whittle delivers on the dynamic vocal chops that Frankie Palmeri wishes he had. At any given moment, Whittle can shift between a standard metalcore growl, hushed spoken word, and some light singing, which serves as a key contributor to the album’s overall dynamic sound. Full-on rapping only appears on “Cyanide Divinity,” as a verse backed by distant singing breaks up sonic blend of Meshuggah‘s grooves and Slipknot‘s most atmospheric moments.
Through all of this, it’s clear that Sole Impulse‘s greatest strength is its versatility and creative songwriting in a historically stagnant genre. Instead of aiming for an overhaul of metalcore’s longstanding traditions, Vatican instead opts to combine select elements of the genre and deliver them with their signature creative vision. The music itself on Sole Impulse is impressive, but what’s perhaps worthy of greater commendation is how well they crafted something that should appeal to every type of metalcore fan without leaving anything to be desired. This is as perfect a soundtrack for a mosh pit as it is for your morning commute; let’s hope that Vatican continue crafting the backdrop for both scenarios.
Sole Impulse is available now via 1126 Records.