Sweden’s Vampire are a band that play a critically lauded style of music incredibly well, but for some reason have eluded the critical spotlight. Oft compared to their fellow purveyors of blackened thrashy goodness Tribulation, Vampire have shockingly received far less coverage and hysteria, which is a damned shame. Since the release of their self-titled debut album in 2014, Vampire have slowly built a body of work that feels nigh unassailable in their chosen sphere. Their third full-length record chock full of bangers, Rex, only further confirms their status as one of the great blackened thrash bands on the planet, and is my personal favorite of their releases so far.
Fans of Tribulation, Destroyer 666, Daeva, and Devil Master will find plenty to love in Vampire’s delicious brew of blackened thrash aggression. Their last album, 2017’s With Primeval Force, was a bludgeoning hammer of riffs that left listeners spent and exhausted, and thankfully Rex is no different. While not a significant stylistic evolution, it’s a record that firmly establishes the band’s sonic identity through a new batch of songs that are every bit as hard-hitting as anything they’ve released up to this point, with an extra sheen of polish. The production work here is clear and rich without losing its general sense of old school timelessness. This new layer of production adds significantly to the band’s already fantastic songwriting, affording listeners a full-bodied experience that allows us to absorb every delicious lick, solo, and riff with relish.
The album kicks things into high gear almost immediately with its opening self-titled track, which is introduced by the effective taster “Prelusion”. The riffs here are both immediate and epic in scale, floating in that rarely found state of high-level grandeur and instantaneous ear candy. This balance of epic scale and boots-on-the-ground aggression is struck by the band regularly throughout the record, and only serves to further highlight their growth and maturation as songwriters. Follow-up tracks “Inspiritus” and “Wiru-Akka” keep the riff train rolling with solo-heavy, guitar-driven escapades that serve to fully cement the album’s intended sound while creating additional notes of menace. “Pandemoni” heralds back to the glory days of thrash chugitude, rounding out the record’s first half in glorious fashion.
Rex’s back half, given the task of following one of the more entertaining opening moments of any record in this space in recent memory, holds up as well as we’ve come to expect from Vampire. The emotionally resonant “Moloch” ends up as a highlight of the record, bringing intensity and dark melody together in a veritable witch’s brew of thrash perfection. It’s tempo variation is also exceptional, making the track one of the most diverse and interesting on the record. “Anima”, which slows the record down to a militant crawl in its opening moments, displays a similar level of diversity in craftsmanship, playing out like a slow death that leads right into sensational album closer “Melek-Taus”, which combines these tracks’ sense of melodic heft and generalized speed into an epic finale that is as good a cap as one could ask for. In short, it’s everything I hoped for in a Vampire record and more.
Rex is an absolutely fantastic slab of blackened thrash metal, full stop. On the whole, Vampire’s third full-length effort feels less like a band charting a new direction for themselves than a celebration of all that they do well, firmly laying down the foundation of their sonic legacy. The songwriting is excellent, the performances top-notch, and the production a perfect complement to the band’s raucous sound. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience that I’ve returned to time and time again since its release and have yet to come remotely close to tiring of. Exceptional work by a highly underrated group of musicians that I hope continues to elevate their stature as one of blackened thrash metal’s premier voices.
Rex is out now via Century Media, and is available for purchase through the label’s website.