It's ten o'clock on a Tuesday night in Brooklyn. A pair of Canadians who call themselves Vile Creature are standing on a makeshift stage in a Mexican themed bar battering their audience with salvos of ponderous guitar riffs and crashing drums. KW, the band's guitarist, is a whirlwind of hair and feedback, and Vic is attacking the kick drum so hard the cinder blocks meant to keep it in place have to be readjusted every few minutes. The crowd, consisting of members and allies of the LGBTQ community, are enjoying the show although several people who clearly didn't know what they were in for are driven to using their fingers as ear plugs. Tonight Vile Creature is the sole heavy metal band on a bill otherwise made up of LGBTQ punk and post-punk acts. Musically, they're an anomaly, but that's nothing new for a band that describes itself as anti-oppressive, queer, vegan doom metal.
Vile Creature began when members KW and Vic met in Toronto in June of 2014. KW was a multi-instrumentalist with experience playing in numerous bands such as Two Funerals and Mose Giganticus, but hadn't played guitar for several years. Vic, on the other hand, had no musical background at all and taught herself how to play drums when the duo decided to start writing music together. "I've never played an instrument. I met KW about a year ago and we were talking about how it would be great to start something together and work on my inability to play an instrument," she said during a recent interview." He (KW) helped me buy a drum kit and I've been playing ever since and we've just been writing songs together and getting heavier."
The fruit of the pair's labor was unveiled six months later in the form of A Steady Descent into the Soil, a grueling, forty-minute trip through a sonic meat grinder inspired by the experience of growing up queer. Wave after wave of filthy, atmospheric doom crashes against the listener's head while KW howls lyrics like, "My body won't succumb to pressure to conform" and "There are no valleys nor mountains carved large enough to hide your ignorance." His words are as much a warning as a cathartic release. "The whole record is about the hatred and violence that queer persons, female-identified persons, and non–cis-gendered persons are subjected to on a regular basis, and our experiences with that," KW said. "The songs touch on our negative experiences, our feelings on willful ignorance of issues and how it is abhorrent, and that when something awful happens, sometimes it is okay to have violent feelings of revenge, and that it is natural." There's a sense of righteous fury that's almost tangible throughout the album and it's understandable why when you consider that the titular track is based on KW's experience of waking up in a hospital after being assaulted for simply being born a certain way.
It should be obvious by now that there aren't many heavy metal bands like Vile Creature, especially not in the doom metal subgenre. While the style of music the band plays is in the same sludgy vain as Thou, its lyrical content is virtually unheard of. There are plenty of doom metal bands that romanticize death or write about it in an abstract way, but there aren't many who can write about it based on personal experience. In a genre as obsessed with authenticity as heavy metal is it seems like that would be a plus. Unfortunately there are a number of reasons to suspect that metal fans would be apprehensive if not downright hostile to the band. It's true that many metalheads value some nebulous idea of "authenticity," but we can also be insular and fearful of progress. Why rage against the patriarchy when we can continue raging against Christianity? It's a safer target and doesn't require any of that bothersome introspection, after all. It's too early in the band's career to make any predictions, but metal fans aren't exactly known for embracing explicitly political music either, especially when it's identity politics.
It's a shame, too, because Vile Creature is the epitome of heavy metal. The duo are confrontational, abrasive, transgressive, and, above all, loud. They stand in opposition to authority and force their audience to confront harsh realities we may not want to accept. It's not a stretch to say that Vile Creature is the spiritual successor to bands like Slayer and Morbid Angel, but, instead of rejecting Christianity (an increasingly mundane occurrence in the United States), Vic and KW are rejecting oppressive gender identities. It doesn't take a genius to see the parallels. It also doesn't take a genius to see that people who would be shocked or upset by the band's crusade against oppression are the same sort of hand-wringing prudes who were terrified of metal's diabolical lyrics in the 1980s. The only difference being that, these days, detractors are nearly as likely to be leather-clad metalheads as conservative Christians. It doesn't matter, though. Vile Creature intend to continue creating music and touring, and there's already buzz building around them in the underground. They'll keep amassing a fan base of like-minded headbangers, while the churlish grumps who oppose them will be swept aside and forgotten.