01. Maleficus
02. The Line That Divides
03. Threshold of Empowerment
04. Legion of Martyrs
05. Misery Embrace
06. Ashes
07. Wrath Wrought Ruin
08. Fall Unto Chaos

RATING: 7.5/10

In a world where straight-up death metal seems to be on a race to blast-beating oblivion, it takes dedication to stick doggedly with a rhythmic, midtempo, song-oriented style. Perhaps this is why, despite ten years of persistence in the underground and props from fellow metal travelers, this American death metal unit remains unsigned, operating in Arkansas, in relative isolation from the industry. But their doom-tinged, old-school-informed assault remains untainted, and by following their own muse, VORE have created a work of lasting import and crushing prowess.

"Maleficus" will appeal to those who liked the new OBITUARY — but where the OBIE-sound usually has that swinging metal gallop to it, even at their slowest, VORE is a more staid, precise, funereal prospect. Dark, atmospheric interludes like the martial "Legion of Martyrs" and the acoustic "Ashes" offset grim, deceptively simplistic riffs and tightly controlled lockstep grooves, inexorable as a Sherman tank (a fitting analogy, since the only active band this single-minded that I can think of is BOLT THROWER).

The vocals have an anguished, live, unprocessed sound to them that fits the rest of the album — you hear strings squeal, the bass has a sick, churning feel to it, there's even that little bit of earphones-only hiss when one guitar starts a song and the other hasn't come in yet. Despite this off-the-floor vibe, the band is not only heavy as leaden hell, but they're ridiculously tight, the kick drum locked in with the riffs more often than not. VORE is the kind of band that got good the old-fashioned, computer-free way — by fucking bleeding for it, day in and day out, in the practice room.

With six proper songs and two interludes, "Maleficus" may be a little on the short side for a full-length. It's a testament to the band's quality, though, that when "Fall Unto Chaos" ends, the listener is left wanting more. VORE are practitioners of a primal, savage strain of death metal that's infinitely more effective than blasts-in-a-blender, drum triggers and overprocessed burping vocals – these are the sort of clenched-fist riffs and desperate, grave-dirt-caked vocals that made people scared of death metal in the first place.

I'd love to see these guys out on the road with someone as stalwart and proud as they are of their take on the bleeding roots of death metal — IMMOLATION comes to mind. It'd also be nice to see someone step in and get these guys in front of a wider audience, although truth be told, they're doing a better job for themselves than many underground labels would for them. VORE is a pillar of the American death metal scene, pure and simple, and if you claim to be a fan, "Maleficus" should be next on your purchase list.


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