Thursday, January 16, 2014

Black Vulpine - Demo (2013)

Metal isn't the boys club it once was, something evident from browsing any record store these days. Arch Enemy, Lacuna Coil, Leaves' Eyes, and so many other acts have broken that gender barrier in every branch of metal music. The one subsect that hasn't been blessed by the fairer sex, as far as we can tell, is the blooming stoner community, often inhabited by grizzly men with full beards and raspy tones to their voices. Luckily, even that can't last forever. German four piece Black Vulpine aren't new to the scene, but a new demo is enough to get the conversation started. Female fronted, riff dominated, and bursting at the seams with energy, the band has come a long way since forming in 2004. But what they enjoy in individuality and uniqueness, they may lack in focus. On their new three song demo, released in November of 2013, they give you a taste of where they've been, where they are, and where they hope to be. But unless they can focus on the greater goal, it might not be enough to break through to the stoner elite.

It's no surprise that the heavy stomp of "Avra Kadavra" comes out of the gate in full force. But when vocalist Sarah joins the mix, it creates a new dynamic all together. Her voice is beautifully melodic, without compromising the raw nature of the instrumental. These are hair swinging riffs, the music you want to listen to standing up with room to give yourself a mild case of whiplash. It is relentlessly driving, and yet always accessible to even the most distant rock or metal fan. While "Drowning In Lakes" may have a playful side, it reignites the blaring riffs that the stoner genre relies so heavily on, often wearing you down until you can no longer resists their pull. The rhythm section, though they rarely if ever cut loose, is rock solid in their support of those big guitar sounds and even bigger distortion. If there is a misstep on the demo, "Lies" may be it. Clocking in at less than three minutes long, there is little time to ascend and descend, meaning this would be the perfect opportunity to throw caution to the wind and deliver something that flexes their respective muscles. But they opt for subtlety, Sarah crooning with a layer of effects over her voice. The voume knobs open, but just in time for the track to end.

A demo is exactly what the name says it is: a demonstration of what a band is thinking, what they are doing, or what they are aspiring to do. As such, this initial offer from Black Vulpine gives you a sneak peak into what this four piece has in store for you down the road. There are plenty of infectious grooves to be had here, albeit in a very small and short cross section. This alone would be enough to warrant a follow, a like, or an additional listen. But the bigger concern is the unfinished feeling you may get when these three songs come and go. They don't feel fully fleshed out, especially the finale, and they could be indicative of a bigger problem. Is the three minute blast the best they can do, or is there more than meets the ear? Was it an issue of creativity or inspiration, or is this what they intended for their debut performance? These are all legitimate questions that will need to be answered with subsequent albums and releases. For now, Black Vulpine has every reason to stay on your musical radar. Their next effort will decide if they grow or fade.


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