VULTURE WINGS – Funeral Grounds EP

vulture-wings-epDespite being billed as a death metal band, the material that makes up the bulk of Brazilian outfit Vulture Wings’ debut EP is surprising. Their music is very heavy, but retains almost none of the relentless pneumatics so often associated with the genre. This, of course, has the potential to make ‘Funeral Grounds’ a more accessible listen than most – provided that is, of course, you can get your head around a growling vocal.

Adopting a surprisingly slow and threatening approach, ‘Oath With No Words’ begins the release with an instrumental that gives a reasonable insight into the band’s musical strengths. Buzzing fly noises give way to a slightly sludgy riff that carries a very familiar sound that could be straight from the late 80s. Cranking this riff slowly, the heaviness is gradually built until the main melody breaks into faster, slightly muted notes; notes that approximate a thrashier sound, but still don’t achieve the expected death speeds. A few bars of this provides some solid listening, before everything reverts to the original riff before seguing neatly into the next track. A reasonable set up, but the next couple of tracks show the band’s full capabilities. ‘Tower of Silence’ cranks a very pleasing riff, a heavy downtuned – almost waltzy – affair that injects a reasonable amount of metallic melody into it’s heavy framework. Vocalist Joao Valentim comes across with a reasonable presence; his voice is growly but isn’t a full-on death fest, performing in a style that allows most of the lyrics to be heard. Shifting into the track’s second major riff, this time closer to a Slayer classic, the presence of the twin guitarists takes dominance and the results are even better. At the point it seems as if Vulture Wings have nothing more to give, a third riff makes an entrance with a much more frenzied attack, now allowing some brief pneumatic drums through. The vocals intensify as is necessary, but the track doesn’t actually improve. If anything, it really exposes this release’s two major weaknesses. Firstly, the low-budget production values leave much to be desired as they make the drums sound like plastic tubs and secondly, there’s a feeling that (in contrast with so many other similar musicians) drummer Wellington Cunha really isn’t the best. He can keep time; he can bash a few toms, but he doesn’t do it with half the vigour of your average death metal drummer. Perhaps this accounts for Vulture Wings’ preference for slower material?

Moving on, ‘Walking Corpse Syndrome’ starts excellently with a couple of doomy chords underpinned by a thudding bass drum. As Valentim lets out a guttural roar, everything comes together strongly, creating the EP’s most intense moment. Shifting into the verse, the riffs settle into a chugging mid-pace and have a hugely melodic slant for the style and the growling vocal rattles along with a very rhythmic meter. At the point where the band quicken their pace yet again, the guitars drop into a couple of decent breakdowns – and what emerges should be excellent. However, that tiny, flat drum sound is horribly distracting, with all the clout of a drum machine. On the plus side, the guitar solos are more than commendable, with Alan Machado and Willian Passos often showing they’re capable of driving the band towards better things. In the closing moments of this number, a quirky time signature suggests a progressive approach, but isn’t something that gets developed fully. Although obviously flawed, there are some genuinely good moments hidden among this six minute epic. With far more punch, ‘Necrophageous Majesty’ gives Valentim a well rounded vocal workout ranging from traditional death infused grunts to scratchy extreme metal rasps and, as such, this presents his best performance. Once more, though, it’s those guitarists whom lead the way; although working with tried and tested riffs and tones, the results are very promising and while the solo has the odd bum note, it’s delivered in a very fluid, fiery and old-school fashion; something that makes this number all the more appealing. As before, though, the drum sound always makes the performance seem a touch…unpolished.

As far as melodic death metal is concerned, Vulture Wings show potential. The material is strong and some of the riffs are great. Sadly, the production values are pretty bad and the drumming is uninspiring, which added together, sort of makes for a decidedly average release. Still, viewed as a DIY first attempt, there are far worse listens out there…

April 2016