By Dr. Abner Mality

It is our general policy here at Wormwood to do "timely" reviews. We try hard to review releases that have only come out in the last six months and generally we ignore re-issues. But once in a while, something comes along that forces us to toss that rule into the dumpster. Such a release is the debut from Vhol. I'm not sure if this came out in late 2012 or even early 2013, but it really doesn't matter. I would have reviewed this masterwork if it had been 50 years old and just discovered in Grandma's attic.

This is a transcendental, timeless work of heavy metal art. It's one of those records that fits the description "awesome" of the most over-used and therefore meaningless words in the modern vocabulary. The band Vhol is composed of YOB's Mike Sheidt on vocals, along with John Cobbett and Sigrid Sheie of Hammers of Misfortune on guitar and bass and drum wizard Aesop Dekker on the skins. The music this collective creates here defies easy description, leaving only fumbling superlatives. Imagine a band with the speed and aggression of early Slayer, the progressive unpredictability of King Crimson, the riff mastery of early Rush and the sheer sci-fi goofiness of Voi Vod blended together in an atomic reactor and unleashed upon the world. That would be Vhol.

The presence of YOB's Mike Sheidt might suggest a doomy band but that is not the case at all here. SPEED is a defining characteristic of Vhol and it is present on every single track here. This is a speed demon's delight! But it's not the kind of simple, open E chord riffing we usually hear, but something warped and wonderful, with majestic chords, incredible precise guitar picking and a feeling that you are flying through space at faster-than-light. John Cobbett is a fucking genius...I always thought so with Hammers of Misfortune and Slough Feg before that, but Vhol is the last word in guitar mastery. You will go crazy listening to his work on songs like "The Wall", "Plastic Shaman", "Arising"...any of the seven killer tracks here. He's matched by the hyper-active, almost out of control drumming of Dekker. This is like Buddy Rich on acid. Instrumentally, each of the songs is pure metal and pure heaviness, but it almost seems like something more than that.

As for Mr. Sheidt, we do get his trademark nasal vocals here and they sound fantastic, but more often he lends himself to aggressive snarls and growls. On the track "Grace", he sounds like a beast that has just been captured. He gets to show an angrier side with Vhol, yet even that doesn't sound like the typical metal rage. Every part in the Vhol puzzle fits perfectly into the whole.

I almost literally felt high after listening to this. During the last month, I have heard some monster records like Carcass' "Surgical Steel", Windhand's "Soma" and Oranssi Pazuzu's "Velonielu". Vhol is the best of the lot. I could listen to this 20 times in a row and hear something new each time. That's the mark of greatness. This is something every metal fan should listen to.