More Vision and the Voice (2002)

This Vader is not in any way affiliated with Darth Vader, Lucasfilm or any related entities. It’s a Polish death metal band with an admittedly silly name, but that shouldn’t be held against them. Vader isn’t a top-tier act in the death metal world, but after nearly ten albums in sixteen years, they’ve earned a sizable cult following, and in truth they deserve more attention than they’ve received to date.

Death metal is a music which places heavy demands on both listener and musician. The musicians must be technically proficient in order to execute the complex, repetitive riffs and solos. There is no jamming or improvisation in death metal; pieces of music must be performed perfectly every time. It’s much more akin to classical music than to the loose, party vibe of most rock.

There’s no smiling in death metal. Unlike the relatively simple blues chord progressions found in rock, death metal is based around staccato riffs which are driven forward by relentless drumming, often featuring a double bass pedal for extreme bottom-end rumbling. This is particularly true of the music as it exists now, as compared with its late-1980s beginnings when it seemed more like a blend of traditional metal and hardcore punk. The time signatures in which the music is played have grown exponentially more complex, with many bands owing as much to the progressive rock of the early 1970s as to the metal bands which preceded them.

Vader’s music is explicitly derived from the work of their contemporaries in the California band Slayer. Their riffs are extremely repetitive, almost mechanistic, but their guitar solos are wild and seemingly out of control. (As explained above, though, loss of control is an illusion. Death metal musicians have themselves and their instruments under rigorous control at all times. Despite its brutal sound and violent imagery, it’s an almost ascetically disciplined form.) This guitar soloing style is in fact third-generation, as Slayer’s lead guitarist, Kerry King, admits having copped some of his best licks from Black Flag leader Greg Ginn, who was cranking out similar, horribly misshapen noisefests on the punk scene in the early 1980s.

Vader are not a particularly progressive band, but their music musters a savage energy which more than makes up for any perceived lack of originality or complexity. They pummel the listener into submission with volume, speed and, as mentioned, a merciless drum assault. All death metal lyrics dwell on negativity, both human and supernatural, and Vader’s are no different. Their saving grace (no pun intended) is the relative lack of poker-faced Satanism; again like Slayer, they prefer to rant about earthly evils, dipping only occasionally into demonic imagery for extra spice.

More Vision And The Voice is a DVD expansion of a live concert home video the band released in 1998, then simply titled Vision And The Voice. Because of that, the main part of it does not contain any songs from their two most recent albums, Litany (2000) and Revelation (2002). This is particularly unfortunate in the latter case, as Revelation is one of the heaviest albums Vader’s ever recorded and possibly their best work. There are some newer songs to be found here, though, as the original VHS program has been augmented with eight additional live tracks from 2001. The disc also contains three videos for early songs, an interview with the band’s vocalist, and numerous other distractions (photo gallery, discography, etc.).

This is not a concert film meant to win new fans or convert skeptics. It’s intended for Vader’s existing audience. It has none of the visual flair of, say, Stop Making Sense or The Last Waltz. That being said, it still manages to serve as a reasonable introduction, for someone curious about death metal, to one of the music’s better acts.

Phil Freeman