Review: Vehement Caress, Frailty (Divergent Series, 2015)

Boston, MA's Vehement Caress has amassed a decent-sized discography of assorted dark ambient/death industrial noise since 2010, the most recent outing being this full-length cassette—the 20th release from the Divergent Series label (also based in Boston).

Consisting of eight tracks in 60 minutes, Frailty opens with its two longest compositions. The 14-minute "Thanatos" builds upon hypnotic washes of expansive drones encircled by increasingly chaotic wisps of distorted texture, with subtle melodic undertones seeping through the depths on occasion; followed by "Civility's Fugue," bending a similar foundation towards deeper and more restrained low-end hums, shapeshifting ever so carefully over the course of 10 minutes. This approach carries over into the ambient murmurs of "Leaking Skyward," which ring out with a greater sense of brightness that starts to rise from the oppressive darkness of its predecessors—fitting of the track's title.

"Plague" acts as somewhat of an interlude, as a heavy whir pans back and forth across barking, snarling dogs as a lead-in to the thin, crunchy wisps of "Echo Folds Upon the Void"—its rawer textures suppressing a harsher, distorted edge that attempts to break free. Power electronics-styled vocals are introduced a few minutes later—so veiled by corrosive effects that you'd never make out the lyrics—as the piece slowly layers into a more aggressive state that remains effectively crisp and detailed as the rugged distortion starts to cave in on itself.

"Corporeal Insolvency" then returns to an ultra dense morass of low-end vibrations, opening up into windy midrange as much more direct vocals burst forth—again, so transformed by effects that their content is indecipherable. Reverberating hums start to sweep in and out of the mix and eventually become quite piercing, creating one of the more powerful overall compositions, with nods to an old school power electronics aesthetic. "The Hedon's Collapse" is another highlight, as supremely dark, malevolent drones and pitch-shifted quotes from The Satanic Bible change over into cryptic, distorted yelling buried in the core of the mix, before dropping out to resonanting pulses during the final minutes. And "Implacable Malice" opens with stabbing high-end feedback, eventually overtaken by murky, animalistic oscillations to close out.

The cassette is limited to just 70 copies, and they're absolutely beautiful, following a consistent aesthetic similar to an Albrecht Dürer style of woodcut imagery and iconography. Professionally duplicated opaque black tapes with white print on the shell; a full-color, four-panel insert with artwork and an excellent quote from Bertrand Russell's Human Society in Ethics and Politics; and two smaller vellum inserts—one for the tracklist, the other for additional artwork. Excellent.

Frailty is really quite strong as a whole, so I'm looking forward to exploring more work from Vehement Caress. That 60 minutes of material this impressive is only being released digitally and via such a scant physical pressing is borderline criminal. I'm shocked that the cassettes haven't sold out yet, but they've got to be well on their way, so act quickly if you'd like to get your hands on something tangible...

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  1. There are actually about 70 copies and still available through Vehement Caress or Divergent Series.
    Thanks for the review,  great write-up!

    10.12.2015 | By DivergentSeried