Vom - Altered States (4 stars)

The doomy, nigh-instrumental Glasgow trio merge ritualistic intensity with more exploratory ambitions

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Vom - Altered States

(At War with False Noise)

There’s something threatening and otherworldly about this doomy, nigh-instrumental Glasgow trio. A combination of the relative scarcity of their live appearances, an obtuse and abstract artwork, some evocative and foreboding choices of album and song titles, and the ritualistic intensity of their music gives them a mysterious, sinister, almost cultish air.

Altered States, their second full-length album, appeases the acolytes by taking the hard-edged, minimal, goth-derived sound of their debut, Primitive Arts, and pushing it a little further, but also seeks to recruit new blood by adding a few new twists. Opener ‘Moon of Hecate’ foregrounds Vom’s principal weapon: a massive, chorus-soaked bass tone, jagged like a barbed-wire choker. The relatively simple, repetitive lines gouge away to a merciless beat, while a wounded guitar howls and a barely audible voice issues threats into a tin can at the bottom of a lake. It’s absolutely superb, lethal stuff, and this motif recurs three or four more times (most ferociously on ‘The Master’). It’s effectively Vom’s signature sound and they can do this whilst unconscious or undead if need be.

More challenging are their ventures into new territory. ‘Cortina’ is a comparatively lightweight and melodic but still extremely gothy instrumental. With its guitar tweaked to resemble a harpsichord, it could make for a fair theme tune to a 1970s TV detective series. ‘The Stand’ also reveals a poppier, prettier side to the band, exploring their more melodic Banshees tendencies. The short, delicate, guitar instrumental ‘The Jester’ is an anomaly that recalls similar flower-in-the-ashes curios such as Black Sabbath’s ‘Embryo’ or Faith No More’s ‘Jim’, while doom-laden final track ‘Sorcery’ is notable for its quasi-militaristic march and heavy synths.

Very aptly named, Altered States finds Vom in a fascinating state of transition between the ruthlessly effective murder machine of old and a newer, more exploratory incarnation.

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