It seems weird to say it now but there was a time when technical thrash metal was prolific. Specifically, this time happened around the end of the 80’s and the beginning of the 90’s, where bands like Destruction, Watchtower, Sieges Even, and many more were making deeply progressive, experimental, and evocative thrash metal. They were making music that had as much as common with King Crimson just as much as it did with Metallica, creating a hybrid that was both aggressive and intriguing, blazingly heavy and evocative in equal degree. However, that genre has mostly died, with few torchbearers still around today, and many of the names involved in its flowering have been forgotten.
One of those names is Vauxdvihl. Evidence of its dissolution into the sands of time is that I had never heard the name until a few weeks ago, when Noyan mentioned them on the cast following my mention of Alarum, one of those aforementioned torchbearers of progressive/technical thrash. And, indeed, when I listened to Vauxdvihl’s masterpiece, To Dimension Logic, I found a pristine gem of thrash/progressive metal, one which perhaps leaned more heavily on the progressive than the thrash but which nonetheless drew a ton of inspiration from all of the above mentioned bands. The result is a far-spanning album, replete with great guitar lines and beautifully unique vocals.
You can probably best hear that on “Separate Ends”. The track starts with a guitar/synth combo that’s covered in early 90’s/late 80’s tone, a riff that wouldn’t feel out of place on Dream Theater‘s Falling Into Infinity let’s say. But quickly, the bass plays one of those great licks that have always identified the style and the theatrical atmosphere which follows it further cements our presence in a different musical space. Things really pick up when the main vocals kick in, their powerful timbre carrying the instruments into new heights. Listen again to the bass and the way the drums swim in and out of those odd-metered signatures to create the epic, “bottom” layer of the track’s sound.
“Separate Ends” also boasts beautifully mournful lyrics and vocal structure, finally petering out to the track’s melancholic outro. The album is chock full of this kind of complexity, sprawling songs replete with clever ideas around composition sheathed in a metallic edge that gives them a satisfying crunch. This is probably what I love the most about this album and, indeed, the entire progressive/technical thrash genre. When done well, like here or with any of the bands mentioned above, it brings something from both worlds across to the other. It takes the heaviness and blistering edge of thrash (represented here mostly on the solos) and melds it with the theatrical aesthetic of progressive metal to create something evocative, deep-striking, and heartfelt.