Victory Road: The Combine Win Big with Void and Vessel

This is beyond the level of technique usually present in local releases, and it comes from all corners of the band. It’s a myriad of tastes, of approaches, and of genres. For fans of heavy music, it’s definitely a worthwhile voyage.

This is a lathe in the hands of master craftsmen. Precision meets beauty. Speed meets instinct. Borne from a blueprint of thrash metal, 70s and 80s prog, and more modern metal-core, in the plainest terms: it rips. Hard.

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8 songs rich with skill, detail, and taste. It has a coat of polish that’s misleading – its edges are razor sharp. The rough finish underneath the lacquer cracks through, giving air to the raw core beneath the shine.

It’s an impressive mix that brings to mind Mastodon, Baroness, and Opeth. The modern generation of metal that leans into operatic turns to draw sentiment out of chaos. Every note matters, but most of them will fly by faster than you can hear. It’s a brand of speed metal that relies on riffs and big vocals to cut through and give it all structure. And it works. If the thrash metal everyone grew up with was fantasy themed, this is science fiction. It’s mechanical and coarse, but it’s not guttural or loose. It’s full of discovery, full of order, and full of experimentation.

“Void and Vessel” hinges on a balance too often taken for granted in modern metal: That you can be both ornate and pragmatic. Abrasive music is often left to its own devices; it lets dissonance become the focus. Lets technicality sell it. While there’s plenty of refined dissonance and pinpoint passages within its frame, The Combine have a special talent that echoes some of their forebearers and major influences – they pace themselves well.

It takes years and years of practice to be able to even come close to their unhinged skill, but composing and arranging music this complex is an innate skill. It’s easy to get lost in the draw of a single riff or motif. But they effortlessly shift. It’s organic songwriting hiding behind progressive, technical metal.

The guitar tones are perfect. The effects are studied and intentional. If there’s anything I find forced, it’s the lyrics – they’re a little contrived. The voices are powerful, though, and even with some cliche lines, they blanket the pandemonium beneath in harmony. Musically, the level of skill on show is just unreal.

This is beyond the level of technique usually present in local releases, and it comes from all corners of the band. It’s a myriad of tastes, of approaches, and of genres. For fans of heavy music, it’s definitely a worthwhile voyage.

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