Something Wicked Marches On is death metal comfort food of the highest order – it’s like a Michelin chef preparing the greatest mac ‘n’ cheese in existence. It’s a record that hits every death metal sweet spot possible without coming across like it’s trying to be everything to everyone. It’s pleasant, if ever an extreme metal record could be. Combining talent from Morbid Angel, Cryptopsy, and Mayhem, Vltimas are less about ensuring each member’s past is represented and more about pumping out the best possible post-Morbid Angel technical death metal. There is little blackened (read: Mayhem) influence, though Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal) would be in Heaven (Hell?) with these tremolo-picked riffs. Instead, these nine songs are a masterclass in showcasing what the more extreme end of death metal can offer in 2019.
That’s not entirely fair or true though, as Something Wicked Marches On sounds delightfully ancient, in the way that those early Morbid Angel records did. There’s a sense that some of these riffs are calling out to The Old Gods, and the delightful mix of curb-stomping aggression and lightning-fast picking only accentuates the balance of the songs. Part of its charm (comfort?) is the fact that the record is evergreen – no matter my mood or inclinations, it always hits the spot. Further, like a perfectly portioned meal, I never feel like it lags on too long. There’s enough variation and maniacal fun to keep listeners engaged throughout its short runtime.
Sure, some may be surprised or underwhelmed that three extremely talented musicians didn’t try to change the game. However, Vltimas succeeds because of the talent and focus, not in spite of it. There are a lot of bands doing Morbid Angel-styled death metal, but few do it with such pizzazz and glee.