Review of Album: UMBRA VITAE Light Of Death


As per what vocalist Jake Bannon mentioned, this is the closest experience he has had to being part of a death metal group. However, Umbra Vitae is far from your typical death metal band, given the diverse musical influences brought in by members like Mike McKenzie from The Red Chord, and Sean Martin from bands like Hatebreed and Twitching Tongues, who collaborate with Jon Rice, whose musical journey has included Uncle Acid and Job For A Cowboy.

Bannon‘s background as the vocalist for Converge, alongside another The Red Chord member, bassist Greg Weeks, ensures that Umbra Vitae‘s sound never veers into traditional death metal territory. This was evident in their previous album “Shadow of Life“, and is once again showcased in Light of Death, where the band elevates themselves beyond being just a supergroup to produce a meticulously crafted blend of auditory aggression.

Boasting 15 tracks in a 45-minute runtime, Umbra Vitae demonstrates their musical growth, evident from the haunting hurdy-gurdy drones and eerie violin notes that introduce “Leave of Absence”. Once the intense blast beats kick in, the band’s fusion of death metal and hardcore becomes palpable. Umbra Vitae excels in delivering calculated and relentless death metal, intertwined seamlessly with a bestial and chaotic hardcore sound.

The production by Kurt Ballou allows both extremes to flourish, striking a perfect balance between brutal clarity and raw intensity. “Belief is Obsolete” further solidifies this approach by juxtaposing primitive mosh segments with intricate tremolo riffs. Bannon‘s vocal performance mirrors this duality, embracing the dark theatrics of extreme metal while retaining his signature style from Converge. Instead of opting for typical guttural growls during heavy segments, his enraged screams add a frantic urgency.

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Listeners can detect the influence of Entombed on tracks like “Anti-Spirit Machine”, resembling a blend of Nails with elements of death-thrash, especially noticeable in the guitar solo and the half-time breakdown. “Velvet Black” introduces a brooding melodicism that immerses the listener in uncharted territory for Umbra Vitae. Bannon‘s gothic baritone vocals come as a pleasant surprise, seamlessly transitioning from slow-burning melancholy to a mid-tempo onslaught, showcasing the band’s versatility.

Tracks like “Nature Vs Nurture” waste no time in transitioning from evocative undertones to a metallic hardcore brawl. The band navigates sudden shifts, such as incorporating a disco beat amidst decimating tremolo attacks, a testament to the complexity woven into their music that sets them apart.

Umbra Vitae doesn’t attempt to overcomplicate the essence of extreme music, evident in relentless tracks like “Clear Cutter” and “Reality in Retrograde” that resonate with the ferocity reminiscent of newer Full of Hell compositions. While one track showcases agile riffing and escalating momentum, the other explores power-violence inspired tempo changes. Their focus lies in refining the core elements of their chosen genres to deliver exceptional results.

The album’s seamless flow across 15 tracks ensures a continuous listening experience. “Past Tense” tantalizes listeners with angular arpeggios and chilling chord progressions, maintaining interest through evocative guitar leads towards the climax. “Algorithm Of Fear” highlights Umbra Vitae‘s ability to exercise restraint amidst their sonic chaos. This music transcends the indulgent tendencies often associated with “supergroups”, balancing unbridled aggression with introspective moments deftly.

Moreover, Umbra Vitae doesn’t shy away from showcasing their lighter side, evident in the exhilarating drum patterns and frenzied riffing of “Twenty-Twenty Vision”. While their music embodies extremity, it also embraces the juxtaposition of minor-key arpeggios found in “Empty Vessel”. This versatility allows the band to seamlessly transition from grindcore elements in “Deep End” back to heavy riff-driven compositions in “Fatal Flaw”.

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Closing Light of Death, the band does not temper their intensity, delivering a culmination of intense mosh riffs, grooves, blasts, and groovy breakdowns. Umbra Vitae symbolizes a unique approach to extreme metal—one that emphasizes emotion and sentiment over the prevailing trend of mechanical precision. In essence, Umbra Vitae excels at creating exceptional metal, irrespective of the genre they delve into; their prowess shines brightly.


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