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Vulgaari - Vulgaari

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Artist: Vulgaari

Album: Vulgaari

Label: Cubo de Sangre

Review date: Aug. 12, 2013

The Minnesota-based duo Zack Kinsey and Brent Hedtke initially started their Vulgaari project just to record some of their sludge/doom forays that didn’t exactly fit with Bastard Saint, the quartet in which both still play. But the tracks on their Bandcamp page got enough attention that fledgling label Cubo de Sangre made the LP its debut release. With a roving cast of musicians on board for guest spots and live duties (including Todd Haug of Surly Brewing Company, of all people), this is thoroughly psychedelic and thoroughly heavy at once, hitting a much-loved sweet spot.

Vulgaari is not, quite frankly, a record of many moods. Like many bands that play loosely in the doom idiom, Vulgaari is insistent in its focus. What makes the record is the combination of secondary influences they bring to their tunes. Once you get beyond the fact that these nine tunes are, yes, bottom heavy and down-tuned, there are some fascinating details and juxtapositions here. On “A World Created,” for example, I wasn’t particularly moved by the fairly standard vocal grumbling but I did find myself compelled by the keening, cosmic guitar (something heard throughout, almost as if Michio Kurihara had been brought in to lay down lines on these tunes, although with way more pinch-squealing), and the fusion of early Pelican with Electric Wizard. The generally vast sound favored here will be familiar to fans of Esoteric or Evoken, and even more so to fans of Neurosis and YOB (whose affinity for science and cosmology film samples gets a tad wearying by the end of this record). And for the most part it works quite well, whether on sheer stompers like “Battlestag” (Sleep meets mid-period Isis perhaps) or the crying, bluesy lament of “Match.”

But while those sailing guitar harmonies like Ahab and Loss are what really make it (along with the psychedelic bath that coats each of these tunes), I have to admit that the approach gets a bit wearisome over the length (65 minutes) of Vulgaari. As enjoyable as the tunes often are (the sludge and crunch of “Black Mountain” could be on Electric Wizard’s Come My Fanatics, while the twin-guitar harmonies of “77 74” are less Torche than Judas Priest by way of Rwake), and even though the pentatonic noodling and sampling both work well with the band’s aesthetic, there ends up being simply too much of both (and each consequently starts to feel too derivative by the end, whereas on a shorter record I might give them more of a pass). As a debut, Vulgaari is certainly solid. And once they stretch out to include more than chug and soar by turns, they could really deliver something.

By Jason Bivins

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