Even in a time when metal bigots are feeling especially sensitive (and have taken to lashing out to express their fears of a less-white, less-straight, less-cis male planet), Ontario duo Vile Creature are really, really good at pissing off metal bigots. The band—comprised of drummer/vocalist Vic and guitarist/vocalist KW—serves up a particularly emotive cocktail of doom, drone, and sludge that's as bleak as it is hopeful, and that comes howling out from the void with fury borne of centuries of collective oppression.
Vile Creature operates with a necessarily political perspective; even though their latest album, Cast of Static and Smoke, is centered on a post-apocalyptic short story influenced by sci-fi writers Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin and written by the two of them, there's no separating the personal from the political when discussing a band that proudly label themselves an "angry queer gloom cult."
Their time online is spent smacking down trolls and spreading the good word of "anti-oppressive, queer, vegan doom," in between sharing photos of their menagerie of pets and generally leaning hard into the idea of making metal cute again. There's no separating their cuddly, empathetic side from the intensity and darkness of their music, and that's exactly the point.
They're here, they're queer, and they're going to pummel the shit out of your eardrums.
And of course, none of this would matter if their music wasn't as compelling and essential as it is. I was a fan of Vile Creature way before I ever actually crossed path with the creatures themselves (and well before they crashed at my house on tour, met my dog, and were exposed to the majesty of my tea collection). In the age of Metal Twitter, it's easy to end up befriending people who play in the bands you like, especially in the underground, and Vile Creature have certainly mastered the artful balance of self-promotion and earnest community involvement that eludes so many other bands on social media.
That raises a broader conversation about access, bias, and whether or not writers should allow themselves to form personal attachments to or relationships with their subjects; while I know many disagree, I think that something as inherently personal as music appreciation can only be deepened and rendered more complex by developing a familiarity with those who created it. So yeah, I am absolutely biased towards this band, but I'm also a massive music snob, so it's extremely convenient that Vile Creature is so fucking good at what they do.
Cast of Static and Smoke is comprised of four long, thoughtful compositions (the shortest, "Sky, In Descending Pieces," is a scanty 8:52 minutes) that wend their way throughout the smoke-filled doom landscape with its billowing clouds of distortion and mountainous slabs of riffage. The mammoth "Forest, Subsists as a Tomb" serves up shades of YOB-ish grandiosity, its wooly grooves held up by pained visions of a fractured world, while impossibly heavy album opener "Water, Tinted Gold and Tainted Copper" ushers in the apocalypse with gentle birdsong and spoken word before dropping the bombs. "Visceral" is a word we use in a lot in metal writing, but if the shoe fits, fuck it— Cast of Static and Smoke is as visceral a doom recording as I've ever heard, like Indian without the hate, or Conan without the barbarian machismo. Vile Creature's interpretation of doom is red in tooth and claw, lighting candles and casting shadows.
Though they hail from North of the border, Vile Creature fit quite cozily into a certain strain of modern North American extreme metal that also encompasses bands like Thou, Cloud Rat, Hell, Kowloon Walled City, Dakhma, and Fórn—those with crusty punk roots but altogether loftier sonic expressions, who hold fast to DIY values and imbue their music with palpable leftist rage. Gilead Media and Halo of Flies Records are the biggest hubs for this strange, special little scene, and it's fitting that the latter is responsible for the US release of Cast of Static and Smoke (with Dry Cough handling the UK distro).
The band describes the new album as "a dystopian science fiction taking place well after civilization has been destroyed by its own nuclear ambitions," and its four songs are accompanied by a 16-page booklet that includes lyrics, credits, and the full story itself (as well there is an audio recording of the entire story read by Former Worlds' Erin Severson). They're joined by a few pals—Severson, who also serves as narrator; vocalist Chris Colohan (Cursed, Burning Love, Sect); and guitarist Jimmy Claypool (False, Deathwish)—and employed the talents of Signaturetone Studios' Adam Tucker to spits-hine the recording, which is the result of "one guitar, one drum kit, and two weird queer kids with lofty ambitions."
Vile Creature on tour:
*March 7 - Toronto @ Coalition
*March 8 - Montreal @ Brasserie Beaubien
*March 9 - Boston @ O'Briens
*March 10 - Brooklyn @ Saint Vitus
*March 11 - Philly @ Kung Fu Neck Tie
*March 12 - Baltimore @ Ottobar
*March 13 - Richmond @ Strange Matter
*March 14 - Asheville @ Static Age
*March 15 - Greenville @ Radio Room
*March 16 - Pensacola @ Chizuko
*March 17 - New Orleans @ One Eyed Jacks
March 18 - Memphis @ Growlers
March 19 - Nashville @ TBA
March 20 - St. Louis @ Fubar
March 21 - Lexington @ Green Lantern
March 22 - Columbus @ Big Room Bar (w/ Maranatha)
March 23 - Pittsburgh @ Gooskis
March 24 - Hamilton @ Doors Pub
Kim Kelly is loving the hell out of these nerds on Twitter.