Viogression – Expound and Exhort (Hammerheart Records)
Review by Milos Sebalj
If there was ever a bad wordplay… Even worse if you were a band from the United States. Or if you are, as the band seems to be very much active these days. I’ve even read about a new studio session coming soon.
In the meantime, there is quite a handy reissue of their early works. Presented on double CD, vinyl and tape, this album should get the attention it certainly deserved back when it was released. As it was stated in the short timeline included in the promotional package, Viogression had a whole lot of bad luck with the record. And that is a terrible shame, if ever there was one. “Expound and Exhort” is an absolute forgotten classic! Back in 1991 albums like this were the ones that got Death Metal its worldwide recognition, and “Expound and Exhort” can (and I’m not exaggerating here) easily stand shoulder to shoulder with “Human”, “Cause of Death” or “Blessed are the Sick”.
As for the music recorded on the debut full length by this quintet, it’s most similar to Obituary. There is no doubt about it, not for a second. It is formed by mostly mid-tempo or slow tracks with just fragmental speed-ups. The guitars are, traditionally, sawing the living flesh. No, I’m not talking about the chainsaw. This is a rusty saw, abandoned in someone’s cellar to be eaten by time, humidity and dust. It needs manual labor. You need to feel every incision. Followed by the cries of the ‘ever hungry for fresh meat’ vocals, which are an ounce of clear pronunciation away from classic John Tardy. The rhythm section calls from the depths of the mausoleum. Almost ritualistic beating of the drums summons the almost deceased to its final resting place while the bass guitar distorts and disfigures the decaying remains.
You can place this description to nearly all of the early Death Metal releases by the veterans of the genre. Especially the ones hailing the rotted flag of Florida. Except, Viogression doesn’t come from Florida. Still, the feeling is absolutely there.
Now, the re-release is complemented by the first two demos by Viogression. The second one, nicely titled “Execution”, released a year before the album itself, displays a form of music present on “Expound and Exhort” and was surely a clear signal as to where is the band going with their creation. It is the debut demo, “Perception Blur”, that feels a bit out of place here. While it is, no doubt, a significant landmark for the band, stylistically it dwells somewhere in the range of early Testament records. It is those ‘twisted’ rhythms that recall the legends of US Thrash Metal, as well as the vocals which are nowhere near what you can hear on the later recordings. Surprisingly, from the information I could find, they were done by the same man. Even this demo is not bad. Neither are the vocals on it. It is just different. But it might just be another case of an act trying to find its own path in the early days.
Not to say these guys are simple copycats, or even passengers on a wave of a popular trend. Viogression was a pioneering band in the genre and it is a great thing to see them still active, after a twenty year break. And it is even better that the kind folks at Hammerheart Records did not let “Expound and Exhort” fall into oblivion. Get this album right now and don’t forget to thank the Dutch label for the opportunity to hear it.