Black metal and Western movies are two things that, by all rights, should not go together. One celebrates justice and the purging of pure evil from the town, and the other has John Wayne for a poster child. I kid, but my point about this crossing of streams still stands. Somehow, though, the duo of Kyle Tavares and Israel Langlais, both of whom are part of another black metal act, Wormwitch, have blended these two concepts together for their new project Vital Spirit. With influences ranging from Ennio Morricone to Marty Robbins, and lyrical inspirations such as Patti Smith and the corridos of the Mexican revolution, this Canadian duo has crafted In The Faith That Looks Through Death, a four-song EP full of blistering guitar work, blast beats, and even some bluesy Western flavors.
“Heart of Sky” starts off at the stroke of blast beat o’clock, with octave riffs galore and some stellar leads. The guitar work employed by Tavares is outstanding throughout this EP, with the clean guitar breaks serving just as much as earworms as the fiery riffs he lays down in the full band sections. At its very core, the track is classic black metal, but has enough new features and facets to catch the attention of even the most ardent purists. Solos aren’t a new thing in black metal, sure, but those used here add a flare to this triumph of a track.
“Centaur” has layers and layers of guitars, with the intro featuring a distorted lead over a clean-picking riff before all hell breaks loose. There’s so much going on with the guitar work here, whether playing the trademark dissonant chords of the genre, or the leads adding a folk edge to the proceedings. Dare I say, it makes the music catchy and memorable, and while that’s not something often said about black metal, it’s not a bad thing by any means. Add in a galloping section around three minutes in, followed by a clean guitar solo over said gallop, and this track soars above most others.
“Face of the Sun” has more blast beats and classic blackened mayhem, with exemplary guitar work once again. The lead work by Tavares stands out as some of the best guitar playing I’ve heard in some time, turning the tropes of the genre on their ear. The interlude feels like a scene from a spaghetti Western, with plucky guitar and whistling that evokes memories of the aforementioned Morricone’s legendary film scores.
Finally, we have “Ghost Dance,” with more genius riffing and brutalizing drumming from Langlais. The EP clocks in at around seventeen minutes, and the only bad thing I can say is that there wasn’t more to be had. This is a record that will challenge the view of trve kvlt black metal, a genre steeped in tradition and grimness. Vital Spirit look at that tradition and put a hole in it with their six-shooters, before showing the town what evil really means. It is with this that In The Faith That Looks Through Death succeeds. On paper, it’s an admittedly odd marriage, but those who like a little experimentation in their black metal will be sure to enjoy this record.
In the Faith That Looks Through Death is available now via Hidden Tribe Records.