I was very taken with the debut EP from this Irish band. Their old school death metal with a large slice of black metal and their own take on how to squeeze melody between the cracks worked well for me, and with friends who were fortunate enough to catch them live being very impressed I was really looking forward to their first full length.

‘Titan’ opens up with a full tilt old school death metal battering; Drums going like the clappers, riff drilling and the bass flapping in the fetid wind. It’s a great first assault but even better when they drop down a gear something happens that just opens out as the glory in the song. A dramatic flair for grimy ‘melody’ amidst the Autopsy and bestial blackness. Lyrics can be heard clearly despite their death style, the atmosphere is cloying, the message bleak. Great start.

‘Tether And Wane’ has a weird, ominous martial march to it, an older Celtic Frost feel to the time changes and the central riff cranks up the darkness once more. The marching sections are just superb; fear cresting the stomp with some great interplay between bass and guitar. Yeah it sounds simple until you get sucked in and the arrangement, the composition enthrals you like intricate webbing.

The production is deceptively subtle I find. It would be too easy to mire this down in tar, so dirty are the riffs, but the fantastic songwriting would be lost. Instead without losing the heaviness it has managed an open sound where the ropes binding the songs together are all visible. Here, the brutal but insistent door hammering riff on ‘So I Hang From A Wretched Tree’ is like a fearful revenant demanding egress. Rising to a frightening black howl this is Jamesian style haunting, all fear and dread and wrong forces just over the threshold. Utterly fantastic.

‘Masque Of Obsequious Venality’ slows right down. A bare riff with a bass line pushed even further up to carry the melody, this creeps and gnaws from within even as its true ugliness gathers to eventually rip the veneer away to expose the rotten soul within. ‘Snake Among Man’ matches the title with a sliding sinuous opening, a discordant riff and guitar scales writhe between the snarled and spat vocals and tortured lyrics spewed like some death metal ‘Orgasmatron’. ‘The Long Trail’ is slid into almost seamlessly, a mid paced shapeshifter from screech edged riff to dark rumbling speed with the ever superb drumming binding it together. ‘End Of A Beginning’ being the appropriate final horror outro, Vircolac leave us thirty five minutes or so later but so much the richer. Or corrupted. I’m not sure.

An album dedicated to false projections, to the faces people and.. things… hidden behind the masque. A delirium of dirty death metal and black filth with the storytelling of M R James. Celtic Frost, Autopsy, Portal, Teitanblood and Coltsblood writhing in muck as throats are opened and the unique Vircolac spirit and sound flows over them. Weirdly unsettling, indisputably intelligent, compellingly filthy and dangerously charismatic; Vircolac have produced a debut far better than anyone really has a right to.

Horrible. Wonderful.

(9/10 Gizmo)