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It’s not an understatement to say that Boston’s Vein have become the youngblood heroes of heavy music. Off the back of 2013’s self-titled EP, 2015’s claustrophobic beast ‘Terrors Realm’, and 2016’s insane four track split with .Gif From God, ‘Self-Destruct’, as well as their utterly insane live performances, Vein are on the lips of many lately. Which can be a blessing and a curse. As while receiving plenty of attention is great for stats and streams, as well as scoring a cool feature in Forbes, it also means there’s a lot of weighty expectation placed upon you to now deliver the goods. But with their debut LP ‘errorzone‘, Vein have undoubtedly delivered said goods in a delirious and schizophrenic package.
Now, it’s in-vogue for every hack with a laptop and internet connection who talks about Vein in a review to compare them to a half-dozen other ’90s and 2000’s acts. Just read any review published over the last few weeks about this full-length. The two most-often comparisons you’ll see are, firstly, self-titled/’Iowa‘ era Slipknot due to Vein’s vehement vocal aggression, general heaviness, seething rage and jungle drum’n’bass breaks. And secondly, Converge due to their sheer sonic assault, tones, rhythmic extremity, and hectic riff output. In all fairness, those comparisons are apt, yes. But let’s give Vein the credit where it’s due as they most certainly aren’t some bottom-feeding nu-core band or a knock-off Slipknot clone like Orthodox or Sentenced To Burn are. As they more than put their own solid spin on those influences; going past the realms of nu-metal, hardcore, and metalcore in the chaotic process of ‘errorzone‘.
As for some history, ‘errorzone’ actually started out life back in 2014, before being finished and re-recorded with Will Putney last November. Thankfully, Putney’s work has given this LP beefier legs to stand upon and breathed fresh air into it’s lungs. In terms of the album’s sonics, Vein have never sounded this fuckin’ good before. If the mix and recording quality of their past EPs were too raw or rough for your ears, than you’ve now got no excuse to not froth this album based on the improved production alone. For it’s a well-polished, if familiar, take on what Vein have been capitalizing on for the couple years, with plenty of wicked compositions to boot. ‘Ideation: Self-Destruct’, ‘A Crumpled Memo’, ‘Gust‘, and ‘Ripple’ are some of Vein’s greatest tracks, and with their first full-length, Vein have added a new batch of killer songs to that esteemed list. This is that real shit.
Opener ‘Virus://Vibrance’ is as much a powerful musical and personal statement as it is just an album’s awesome opening track. It’s about self actualization and on saving yourself (“You cannot save me/I’m already saved“), finding those who go beyond the shallow surface level of being and feeling (“If you can’t relate, stay the fuck away/Some people get it some people go deeper“). And man, those short but sweet drum’n’bass samples heard early on, those sick pitched-down riffs during the outro, and the deranged rhythmic pace throughout are all killer too. There’s a very good reason as to why ‘Virus://Vibrance’ came first as the lead single; laying down the gauntlet for Vein’s mad world to soon follow. Vein’s universe is a bleak one, yes, but a brilliant one all the same. (Also, it’s ‘90s-ish music video reminds me a lot of *that* eye scene from Dead Space 2).
The punchier, cleaner redux of ‘Old Data In A Dead Machine’ gives an old Vein favourite new life; trance sample, fast tempo, jagged riffs and all. The mentally scarred, feedback-heavy and violent-as-fuck ‘Demise Automation’, as well as the skin-peeling ‘End Eternal’ are pure hardcore stomping grounds; mosh-pit bangers if there ever were ones. The former’s final breakdown is bloody HUGE and the latter’s dissonant interval riffs could melt through steel beams with ease. Plus, that “goodbye” sample right before the final venomous flourish of ‘End Eternal‘ is a really nice touch too. Some might label these songs simply as “Baby’s First Converge“, but those people would be idiots. As Jacob Bannon and co. haven’t really written shit this goddamn hard since their much-lauded ‘Axe To Fall‘ days. Okay, maybe except for ‘I Can Tell You About Pain‘ from last year’s solid ‘The Dusk In Us‘ LP. (Well shit, there’s that hack- Converge comparison I was talking about earlier).
The album’s longest cut ‘Doomtech’ is another gem (and a track that’s longer than their entire ‘Self-Destruct‘ split). It crashes through Vein’s frenzied hardcore antics with some haunting clean vocals and thick post-metal riffs that punctuate the repeated sung vocals of “…to death“. Of course, the gloomier tones that break through here are soon washed away by another stellar hardcore passage in the song’s closing moments, with some absurdly pained and confronting screaming to be had too. Oh, and speaking of vocals, the performances throughout, when not layering on tasteful cleans, switch between frontman Anthony DiDio’s intense, high throaty screams – which mostly sound like he’s forgone all technique and is just fully venting – and those deeper, lower growls. This back-and-forth vocal dynamic works extremely well for the type of hardcore Vein opt into; something I hope doesn’t change any time soon.
Overall, ‘errorzone‘ flows together well and the album’s “interludes” all feel fleshed out when compared with their longer counterparts. The savage one-minute long ‘Rebirth Protocol’ flows out of ‘Old Data…‘ and into ‘Broken Glass Complexion‘ seamlessly; feeling like a nu-metalcore banger despite being only 60 seconds in length. The droning guitar in ‘Anesthesia’ evokes a warning siren for one to immediately escape. As the ghost-noted drums and chest-churning bass lock together for an air-tight groove, the vocals eerily lament “I don’t wanna be like this…” over primal screams and looped, whirring guitars. Elsewhere, the brutally short ‘Untitled’ (not to be confused with the band’s other song, ‘[Untitled]‘) does what their 2016 split did so chaotically well. Better yet, the inclusion of some soaring Deftones-esque backing clean vocals give what would’ve just been another Vein song some much needed texture. So too does the brief melodic yet still suitably noisy guitar lead that strikes you down two-thirds through this crazed piece. As such, Vein have definitely injected much more variety into their veins with this album and no, I’m not sorry for that pun.
I actually had an epiphany once I reached the final moments of ‘errorzone‘. My interpretation from the album’s structure and flow is that we’re conceptually seeing a metamorphosis of something decaying, cold, and synthetic becoming warm and human; a face-to-face with mortality come the end. I mean, just look at these song titles: ‘Virus://Vibrance‘, ‘Old Data In A Dead Machine’, ‘Rebirth Protocol’, ‘Demise Automation’, and ‘Doomtech’. There’s definitely a mechanical-human narrative or a life-death theme recurring throughout here; showing that Vein are more personal and emotive than some may give their noisy and chaotic sound props for.
This big realization came with the record’s beautiful title track, seeing Vein expand wider into their most uplifting and versatile songwriting yet. The eponymous song starts off like most Vein tracks do; heavy, hard, and hysteric. But soon enough, a melodic guitar lead starts to creep inwards, underpinning drum crashes and vocal cries of “suffer!”. Before you know it, this guitar part completely takes over, as the mathy-hardcore approach that Vein adhere to drops away completely for a euphoric post-hardcore section. It honestly sounds like something Hopesfall or Misery Signals would’ve done 15 years ago, just shaped into this Boston outfit’s twisted vision. Gorgeous pianos are layered over, the singing contains subtle distortion to its timbre, the drums lurch forward in a wonderfully angular way, and the track’s climax makes for the most musically interesting moment Vein have ever cut. Almost like the bright, ascending light at the end of a pitch-black emotional tunnel leading up from the bowels of Hell.
The inclusion of clean vocal respites and more melodious instrumentals throughout the record up until this titular track hits also lends credence to my hypothesis; that this supposed change or growth is happening over time rather than all at once, occurring more frequently the closer you get to the finish line. And come the end, real blood runs through this body and the circuits spark up following all of these brutal inner-demon exorcisms. That probably sounds wankish but there’s no other way I view this record and I think that makes me enjoy it all the more, honestly. Even if I’m wrong, I think I’d prefer to live in my own ignorance in this case.
Lastly, if ‘errorzone‘ had ended on it’s eponymous cut, I’d rate it higher as a complete body of work. However, the LP carries on for one more song, ‘Quitting Infinity’. While it lyrically fits the vibe, it almost robs the title track of it’s emotional weight and grand impact for another typical Vein track to take us home. Which feels kinda ill-placed, especially given that the lyrics of ‘End Eternal‘ feed into the finality of the title track too. Look, I’m not saying no to more from Vein, but after an album full of similar songs to ‘Quitting Infinity‘ in terms of riffs, rhythm, pacing and dissonance, I don’t really need this. It ain’t bad, but ‘errorzone’ as a song leaves everything off so well-rounded – it’s the perfect full-stop. Either way, that’s the only real criticism I have on what is a damned solid debut album.
While I doubt that this album’s title is pulled from The Clarke Error Grid or even from the I.T. tech jargon regarding zone.js and Angular, the record’s grim eye-surgery front cover perhaps hints at one particular goal; a re-positioning of perception. In terms of instrumentals and musicality, Vein have indeed re-branded what they and their songs can be and how they’re viewed by others. And that’s really fucking exciting! This is skin-crawling, futuristic hardcore with a growing experimental sound and an intricate, personal message of self-reworking. To quote lyrics that are dictated on ‘Virus://Vibrance’ about anyone out there who truly “gets” these bombastic sounds and thoughts: let it invade your mind.
2. old data in a dead machine
3. rebirth protocol
4. broken glass complexion
6. demise automation
9. end eternal
11. quitting infinity