I've written a fair amount on Vegas over the past 15 years or so—at times more artfully than others—but given that my present mindset is, of course, leaning less toward the creatively analytical in lieu of enthusiastic excitement, "artful" is an unlikely outcome in this scenario.
Having issued a steady stream of new tracks over the past several years—to varying degrees of (in)visibility—it's hard to believe that this is only the band's second full-length album since Wake, all the way back in 2005. Presenting 14 songs in 31 minutes, Digital Affairs Neurotic consists of about half new/half previously released material—though all familiar works have been at least partially reworked/re-recorded herein.
That being said, I've been provided no additional information or background on the LP prior to this listening session. I know that T and Ogirdor Zul are involved, and I've seen the cover art (designed by Give Up). That's it. No lyrics, no additional visuals, etc. Therefore, certain important elements of the final release may be overlooked out of necessity amidst the initial assessment below...
Originally appearing on the limited edition 2017 lathe-cut 7" of the same name, this rendition has been slightly reworked with a stripped down, less industrialized opening and a hint more clarity and punch to the overall sound. Warbled, wind-like effects ascend beyond the drum intro as a midpaced chug builds in alongside sparse vocal grunts before breaking into some driving metallic hardcore right at the one-minute mark. The vocals remain as affected and indecipherable as ever, and this particular cut is over shortly after falling into place.
"Digital Affairs Neurotic"
The bruising title track comes across as discordantly Japanese-inspired, D-beat-ish hardcore/punk, and also differs a touch from the portentous version that has been on Bandcamp for just under a year now with rawer and more straightforward production. The vocals still reside fairly deep in the mix—under delay—so I can't make out much lyrically, but this is nonetheless one of the "catchier" and more direct Vegas tracks in some time. During the final minute, the original's clean passage has been faded back to merely a subtle nuance, as the percussion strips away to allow the vocals a brief moment of prominence as light feedback and drones crossfade in to take over.
An introductory doom-tinged European metalcore vibe gives way to more battering D-beat-ishness, though the production is a bit muddier and more obfuscated this time out. A nice mix of tempos are presented, and some cool melodic leads crop up throughout the final third of the track, too.
Certainly amongst my favorite of the band's newer pieces—also first appearing on the Stlth Panzer lathe—"Cavity" has herein been slightly reworked with less intrusive percussion. The dark, dissonant intro gives way to moderately-paced palm-muting and twisting background textures, with even more drawn-out delay over the vocals—converting them into more of a droning textural component—before eventually morphing into an unexpectedly swinging groove peppered with zany tapping right at the end.
"The Affirmation of Others"
Here's another memorable hardcore/punk number—in that truly mangled Vegas fashion—that again touches upon a few doomier, slower-paced moments. The vocals—complete with Dwid-esque narrative whispers—are a hint more prominent in the mix, but still nearly impossible to decipher beyond uttering the song's title.
"Kill Your Head"
After a bass-heavy intro containing hard-panned scrapes and swirls of feedback, an ascending/descending chord progression presents itself that—once more—strikes me as unexpectedly straightforward and almost "hooky" for Vegas. The crude production keeps things crispy and aggressive, but the track's overall rhythmic churn is one of my favorites so far. Plus, some of the vocal work provides a noteworthy reminder that the album title is not Digital Affairs Neurotic's only tip of the hat to G.I.S.M. Awesome.
Obviously improved over the Bandcamp version, this treatment of "Suum Cuique" sounds fuller, "clearer" (by comparison, at least), and more powerful. Classically oriented hardcore/punk tweaked with a hint of an overblown metal crunch and wind tunnel vocals. No complaints!
"I Like to be Lectured"
I must confess that in this particular case, I might barely prefer the version of "I Like to be Lectured" from the split 7" lathe with Nar, which had a slightly brighter and eerier ring to it. But I mean barely. In any case, this is another immediate standout for its melodic, somewhat post-punk lean. Without a doubt one of Vegas' most unique compositions to date, and I'd certainly be curious to hear these types of influences explored further. Simply excellent.
Originally appearing on the ± lathe-cut 4" in 2016, this piece has herein been tweaked near the point of sheer chaos, with explosive leads and blasting guitar/drums/vocals throughout. Imagine, perhaps, the sound of two blown-out Integrity songs playing at the same time or something.
"The Raven Was Right"
Arguably the truest head-scratcher of the bunch, the opening riff and accompanying handclaps could well be borrowed from—or an aesthetic homage to—some '80s pop song that I'm failing to draw a parallel to; while the hard-to-hear (guest?) vocals boast a damn-near Pixies type of feel. A weird one, but another true standout, for sure.
"Gift of Oblivion"
Fuck yeah! This punk-leaning assault with a hoarsely-textured vocal delivery is a little more simplistic and "together" in terms of composition and delivery—to the point where if you told me that this was a cover song that I'm too pathetically lame to recognize, I'd probably believe you. Whatever the case, it pays off. This one rules. Holy shit!
"Dead Inside Us"
Yet another atypical yet cool track, the more openly melodic attributes of "Dead Inside Us" sort of bring to mind Closure-era Integrity—a lightly goth-tinged form of "metal punk," maybe?
I missed this limited lathe-cut 5" early last year, but compared to the alternately titled variation on Bandcamp, this presentation has also undergone minor improvements. Driving metallic hardcore with nice, hammering percussion and one of the more powerful breakdowns herein.
At this late stage, I'm realizing that it will be interesting to see how these tracks unfold during future listens. I'm now wondering if it took me eight or nine songs to fully sink into the Vegas realm—hence the last several pieces have clicked more immediately and are hitting a bit harder?
Acoustic neo-folk with some piercing swells, but stuttered enough to be slightly jarring. Therefore: not gift-wrapped for consumption. More or less instrumental, too. There are vocals, but I'm not entirely sure if there are lyrics. I'd wager that many fans would enjoy hearing Vegas return to these occasional forays, and this track should only act to amplify said yearnings.
Despite its expected variances in production and approach from track to track, Digital Affairs Neurotic is—as a whole—a consistent listen. Finally experiencing Vegas once more in the context of a full-length album reveals a greater sense of focus within the increasingly prolific maelstrom they've been developing as of late. I certainly look forward to holding the physical release when it becomes available in early-March through The Final Judgment Records and the Judas Chair Collective.
Listening back to the album now and beginning to hear it more as a singular entity, I'm still pleasantly surprised (and yet, not surprised at all). For longtime fans, disappointment will not be a factor, I assure you...