Possible indicators of an excellent metal album in Talk Rock’s future.
Talk Rock – Vile
Is it surprising that someone writing for a site called Way Too Indie went through a deeply immersive heavy metal phase when he was fifteen years old? I’m talking about myself here. From the time I began high school until my best friend introduced me to Is This It just after I turned seventeen, I was what they call a “metalhead.” Today, my taste has evolved into something more expansive and all-inclusive, but I still enjoy some metal artists from those years. Mastodon, Gojira, Opeth, and occasionally Boris still bring pleasure to my ears (and, more recently, Deafheaven).
Notice something these acts have in common. Their compositions never sacrifice melody for heaviness and brutality. Where bands like Nile and Cannibal Corpse primarily concern themselves with achieving the heaviest sound they possibly can, the groups listed above instead throw some genuine earworms in the mix. Their music is not merely guttural, indistinguishable muck; rather, its well-developed, ornate but ruthless metal. South Dakota’s Talk Rock follows in the later transition, although the breed of metal they advance could pass for extremely low-pitched, high-tempo shoegaze. Throughout their recently released album Vile, they engage in heavy but melodic riffing. It’s an approach that sometimes works well, but is also so perpetual throughout the album that it gradually tires as the album progresses.
The foundation of most of Vile‘s songs are heavily reverbed guitar riffs that are as spacious as they are gruff. Opener “666 Lips” demonstrates this nicely, its music teetering between haunted grimness and shoegaze soaring. The excitement of this sound is dimmed by the vocal take on this song’s chorus, though: the constricted, oddly mopey whines of “Six six six!/On her lips, I felt it!” make the lead up to this break feel disappointing. A better example of the catharsis that the open-ugly contrast Vile provides is “Scapegoat”, a track that crashes through the gates on the album’s most claustrophobic, tidal riff. It perfectly sets the stage for the song’s continued tensions and balances between darkness and hugeness.
“Scapegoat” provides the best example of what Talk Rock has the potential to accomplish. “Perpetual Cryptic” is another instance of this trio deftly pairing dreaminess with deadliness: the partial immersion of its somewhat lackluster vocals by its guitar walls imbue it with the proper amount of eerie growl and upward ecstasy. More often than not, though, Talk Rock fail to fully deliver on the promise of their strongest moments. “Vile Mouth” feels drawn out and lazy, its five minutes feeling like a drag rather than an adventure. Its tempo shifts are only briefly alluring, instead descending into discomfort. Likewise, the louder sections of “Kreepen Man” don’t quite make up for the perpetual crawl of the slower parts. Instrumental track “New Wrist” is guilty of the same set of sins.
Vile is also home to tracks like “The Body”, which contains traces of both musical glory and letdown. The song’s first four minutes are absolutely great, striking an excellent pose of both haunted drone and stark slamming. Yet its last two minutes dribble off into more confusing terrain, wherein the interlocking pummels and arpeggios aggravate rather than excite. That last statement is a half-decent summary of Vile: it’s an album whose peaks are so distinguishable in part because what sounds them just isn’t as exhilarating. These peaks are possible indicators of an excellent metal album in Talk Rock’s future, but for now, they’re more talk than rock.