From the minute that the first elongated BLEEERGH turns an ambient intro into an earth-shattering djent stomp, it’s clear that the debut album from Hertfordshire’s Vexed is a vessel for a different kind of metalcore, leapfrogging over the countless sterile bands in the scene to make the four-piece one of the most exciting names in the game almost instantaneously. Suffice to say there’s a lot of reasons to be angry and frustrated right now, and Culling Culture feels like the sort of purgative burst of aggression that we should expect following years of This Shit, like a coiled spring wound to near breaking point before finally bursting free of its restraints with enough pent-up energy to dismantle the Earth’s core.
The band’s subtly progressive sound is an absolute masterstroke, an expertly wielded blend of infectious bouncing riffs and more intricate melodies that elevate the caustic guitars. Vexed’s strength lies in taking familiar sounds and rearranging them in thrilling and dynamic new ways, the record proving unpredictable at almost every turn through impressive musicianship as well as inventive songwriting that subverts the standard screams/cleans formula. The album stays fresh in its latter half by further experimenting with this dynamic, introducing proggy song structures and one or tracks that deviate from the template – ‘Purity’ is more interested in melodious guitar lines than weighty riffs, whilst ‘Drift’ and ‘Aurora’ combine to form a momentary moment of respite that soon becomes an expansive track that is as reliant on huge hooks and sensuous leads as it is crunching riffs.
Along with the delectable lead guitars, Megan Targett’s corrosive growls are the star of the show. Her apoplectic screams feel like they could melt steel, but when she swaps shrieks for exquisite cleans the tracks suddenly launch into the stratosphere. Contrary to many bands in the genre, the band seldom break their stride for these moments, and thus what the cleans bring is not quite a feeling of vulnerability or even of something more accessible, but certainly of something poignant and cathartic. Elsewhere, as on ‘Narcissist’ and ‘Fake’, Targett’s rapid-fire delivery is almost frighteningly direct in its rhythmic, rap-like speed.
There’s plenty of bands out there who are just as heavy as Vexed in theory, but in application the band’s songwriting talent gives their music an exhilarating atmosphere that few modern bands can truly rival. The anger here feels genuine in a way that I haven’t experienced since Ithaca dropped The Language Of Injury in 2019 or Vein released Errorzone a year prior. This is a fearsome debut from a band you’ll want to be checking out (just make sure it’s from a safe distance).
Culling Culture is out now via Napalm Records and can be ordered here.
Words: George Parr