The Irish Metal scene might be small, but it is loaded with passion, sheer dedication, and talent. Being a metalhead in Catholic Ireland is surely not making you the coolest cat on the block, so it is more of a lifestyle chosen than just a quick fling on the thing for the Metalheads that dwell there. Primordial, Mourning Beloveth, Abaddon Incarnate, Malthusian, Morphosis, Slidhr and Soothsayer all come across with better than average lyrical content, huge amounts of barbaric and raw emotion, all bundled together with killer riffs, and now we can add Vircolac to this list of emerald immortals as well.
Even their “The Cursed Travails of the Demeter” EP a couple of years back was something one could not close your ears nor eyes from, but nothing has prepared us for the assault that is their first full length album “Masque”. If the opening track “Titan” still might come across somewhat familiar for it’s first minute or so, the Celtic Frosted breakdown that serves as the chorus of the song is the first warning of great things to come. Like a beacon it warns you, wake up – there is something ahead! Primitive and eerie, yet somehow carefully arranged and composed, Vircolac begins to win the listener over as the album proceeds. “Masque” is an album that refuses to stay in the background. It demands full attention.
There is a certain charm like that of a rusted nail to be found in “Masque”. The sound is raw and unpolished, but the mix allows us to still appreciate the numerous details the boys from Dublin have planted within. If there is one thing I’d really like to give credit to, it is the audible bass guitar, which gives the album a lot of it’s raw character. Let it be an unexpected riff in “Snake Among Man” or a sudden twist in tempo in the opening track, there seems always to be a massive hook to each tune. A different approach always and these cannot be ignored. And herein lies the biggest secret of the whole album too. There is always that crucial something to keep the interest going.
A movie, book or an album are all artistic concepts that usually demand a big, fat twist in the story-line to make them stand above the average works and become classics. In “Masque’s” case that final movement of grandeur is the track “The Long Trail”. Flapping towards you at first like a genuine bat from hell, it eventually opens up into a gothic death chant of n riff that would make Greg Mackintosh green with envy. One of this year’s best tunes, without a doubt. And with this song, it becomes obvious that the dramatics in “Masque” have all been planned real well. The track listing serves a greater purpose and there is growth in the album, rarely encountered in scale like this. This is simply made to win you over, if you listen it in full.
Loaded with exceptional riff work, dynamics and harsh, yet intelligent hostility “Masque” is Extreme Metal at it’s best. Truly underground perfection and quite mature for a band this young. It is one of the highlights of the first part of 2019, along with releases of Funereal Presence and Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult. Never the one-dimensional noise for noise’s sake, Vircolac are a name to remember. This might not be exactly an album for the mp3 generation, as it really needs to be heard in full to shine, but for those of us who still believe in glory of full albums as an art form, this is something that needs to be heard. They might still need a year or two to rise to the levels of Ireland’s finest masters of raw, archaic energy – Mourning Beloveth and Primordial, but in the light of things Vircolac are really not too far away either. Trust me on this, they are bound for great things in the future. We have been warned.
Rating – 4/5