The Voynich Code
Aqua Vitae
(Primordial Records)

While it’s probably past its expected expiration date, the progressive deathcore scene sure shined bright for a few years and produced some real gems. Most notably (at least personally), Born of Osiris’ 2011 opus, The Discovery, was the perfect fusion of deathcore, prog, and tech death, with a nice bit of Egyptian-styled synth layered in. Last year’s excellent Shokran release, Exodus, helped revive the style, with a more melodic variant of the style, though no less riveting. Portuguese act The Voynich Code certainly share some sonic similarities with both acts, and even if parts of their otherwise excellent debut, Aqua Vitae, feel a bit formulaic, the record feels like a spring from which further greatness is bound to flow out.

What’s immediately and continuously notable about The Voynich Code is their ability to craft those awesome and unexpected moments that demand you hit the rewind button (back when we had CDs, there was an actual button…). With an emphasis on riffs, solos, and ambiance more than breakdowns or mindless brutality, Aqua Vitae feels gloriously dated, to the time when impressive songwriting and musicianship was more important; this isn’t deathcore for the live set, with knuckle-dragging breakdowns (I’d argue the breakdowns are not what the band does best) or cringe-y sing/shout-a-long parts. The few moments where a song drags can usually be waited out, as The Voynich Code always have something fascinating around the musical corner. Their progressive (and impressive) songwriting abilities bring them heads and shoulders above other Born of Osiris disciples, and, indeed, this is one of the best progressive deathcore albums in the wake of The Discovery.

Despite a few less-than-stellar (though still solid) tracks, The Voynich Code have cracked the progressive deathcore code masterfully on their wonderful debut. Aqua Vitae shows the style has more than enough life left in it, and the band is certainly one to watch.

Purchase the album here.

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