The unit deliver death on a silver platter with a debut record that cements the quartet among the strongest death metal newcomers.
First formed in 2013, Irish horde VIRCOLAC are now just days away from unleashing their debut full length Masque, which was picked up by none other than underground heavyweights Dark Descent Records and Sepulchral Voice Records. The unit will join fellow countrymen MALTHUSIAN, ZOM, and PRIMORDIAL as a formidable force with musical chops worthy of garnering praise left and right. The debut Masque follows the menacing Cursed Trails of the Demeter (2016) EP, which set the foundation for what the band was capable of delivering. It's common knowledge that debut records can either make or break a band but in this case, it happens to be the former.
VIRCOLAC waste no time with instrumental intros and hit the ground running with a towering assault aptly titled Titan. While it's become customary for bands to ease listeners with an atmospheric opening, VIRCOLAC stray from routine and bombard listeners from the start. The tumultuous drumming that follows the eerie sound effects on this opening track are prevalent throughout, pummeling eardrums with precision and complemented by McConnell's razor sharp solos. Titan also hosts the album's most powerful chorus with a Laoghaire scream powerful enough to make you 'kneel before the titan.' It serves as a proper welcome to the death metal delivery that follows.
Often times, the bass in metal is often buried underneath an imposing guitar and drum output. These production choices drown out what is normally a beautiful rumbling sound, however, this doesn't happen to be the case with Masque. You can't help but appreciate Keane's resounding bass work throughout the record and the second track Tether & Wane is a perfect example of this. Bass is placed at the forefront and it commands with power, as it should. Although traveling at a slower speed than that of Titan, Tether and Wane holds the same energy, moving towards you like a slow tank.
Segway into So I Hang From a Wretched Tree and you're welcomed by an ominous guitar melody able to send chills down one's spine. Masque takes on gloomy themes of European war efforts and government, having lyrics work hand in hand with somber instrumentation. So I Hang... is a testament to this energy that VIRCOLAC aim to portray. It also finds Purcell's drumming at its strongest, battering audiences with a double pass pedal display from hell.
From here we head to the title track and Snake Among Man, who both set forth the reality of living behind rotating masks and dealing with non-genuine people. Again, the somber lyricism is complemented by the quartet's pristine musical capabilities. While this may seem to be Masque's climax, both tracks serve as a preparation to the altered tempos on The Long Trail. All four cogs in the machine burst with relentless fury on this near 6-minute composition, highlighting what VIRCOLAC do best. As we wind down, we transition over to the two-minute instrumental End of a Beginning that closes the record with suspenseful means, as if to serve as an introduction to the next VIRCOLAC record.
In a time where death metal releases are being conceived by the dozens, VIRCOLAC rise above the masses and let loose an unrelenting display of musicianship capable of catapulting them within a flooded underground. Masque is a debut worthy of all incoming praise for it's ability to embody dreary subject matters into a 38-minute package of dizzying riffs and cataclysmic drumming. With that said, it looks like Dark Descent and Sepulchral Voice have another gem on their hands...
Overall score: 9/10
FFO: Corpsessed, Tomb Mold, Abyssal, Malthusian, Triumvir Foul
Masque will release on March 8th, 2019 via Dark Descent Records in the US and Sepulchral Voice Records in Europe.