As with 2018's Digital Affairs Neurotic, I've been asked to provide an initial reaction to the next full-length entry into the ever-expanding Vegas discography: ...Not Ever. Also like Digital Affairs Neurotic, several of these compositions have previously appeared on secretive, ultra-limited edition physical formats, but each has been reworked and re-recorded for the album-ready experience.
As before, I have little to no information beyond the music. Aside from visionary frontman T, I've not a clue who contributed, when the album will be released (nor on what formats), no lyrics, etc. I was provided the album title, cover art (designed by Give Up), and 12 songs. So, here are some very early reactions, jotted down during my first two or three spins...
World Soul (Back to Basics)
This one kicks things off on a straightforward footing that relies on a rugged, midpaced metallic hardcore stomp with just a dash of dissonance and lightly reverberated vocal snarls.
Similar in overall tempo, tone, and approach, "Saraph" achieves more differentiation between guitar and bass during its intro, which is nice, and additional severity of that patented Vegas vocal obfuscation starts to creep in. There's almost an "'80s metal" vibe to the palm-muted verse riff, which you wouldn't see coming.
As the original release's cover art might imply, there's a fairly significant Spy vs. Spy vibe to the main riff here—another unexpected influence manipulated into the Vegas framework. Again, we have a generally crunchy and midpaced track that lands right in that two-minute range, exploring a hint more vocal variety than its predecessors.
I'm surprised to be greeted by another composition centered largely around chugging, moderately paced metallic hardcore rhythms—but that is certainly no complaint! And here we have those full-on wind tunnel vocals settling into place—more textural than discernable. The bass-centric breakdown once more highlights the areas where guitar and bass become more clear and distinct from each other, too.
Ahhh, a welcomed shift—just in time—as this piece immediately bursts forth with a faster pace and some of the most cacophonous vocals yet. Fear not, however, as it does revert to pounding midpaced power chords for its final act.
The first true curveball of the album! Peculiar diversity starts to rear its head here—a surprise twist with an almost Spizzenergi type of undercurrent by way of keyboard melodies and drum programming. Other characteristics arguably strike upon goth-tinged punk rock, but the vocal delivery adheres to a guttural chorus of almost intangible content. Nice guitar solo toward the end as well.
Back to the churning, midpaced swagger with a touch of speed. There's a little more heft to this one, and just enough traction to the vocals for a more anguished aggression to the aesthetic.
This recording feels slightly more crisp and balanced, and I dig that. Vocals swerve from whispered ambient howls to unhinged layers of chaos over undercurrents of bruising metallic hardcore with a nice melodic lead in the middle. Well done.
It's nice to hear some more variety on side B, as this intro marks the album's first excursion toward softer/darker moments through rugged clean guitars with a little echo. Distant vocal growls and somewhat industrialized percussion then lead into a surge of distorted power chords and cackling vocal mania for the song's final minute or so.
Throne Above Convention
Immediate standout here. Faster, blackened hardcore/punk that sort of hits on a Darkthrone type of vibe—if they were influenced more by traditional hardcore than thrashing metal. Probably the catchiest and most memorable track of the bunch!
Similar in its fast-paced approach with some traditional hardcore seeping in. This one's more savage, though—and the only track herein that tops three minutes. Midway through it transforms into pitch-shifted spoken passages and bluesy guitar improvisations—atmospheric à la millennial reigns, which is always a promising sign.
The Final Sin
The 20-second intro implies a possible experimental outro, but then one last dose of meaty rhythms and simplistic lead melodies gives way to some thrash-tinged D-beat. Not bad at all.
As a whole, ...Not Ever is unusually back-loaded with some of its finest moments. For the most part, longtime fans should know what to expect, though this outing is certainly more cohesive in terms of overall direction, and seems to be developing in such a way that it makes little sense to continue drawing direct parallels to longstanding icons of influence.
Your guess is as good as mine as to when the album might see any form of official release. It could be tomorrow, it could be months from now. Keep track of Vegas on Bandcamp, Facebook, and/or Instagram, and we'll all find out together...