CD Review

Vehemence Realized - "Severe"

By Mike Ventarola

Band Lineup:
Michael Otley - vocals, bass, synthetics
T.Nathan Roane - trumpet, voice, flugelbone, guitar, clarinet, hand percussion, pump organ
With Gabriel Shane Beverly - guitar and additional programming on Loathe, additional programming on Old

SevereVehemence Realized is a dark and moody amalgamation of musical sound and sampled effects to fully please the most die-hard gothic fan. There is a tight control on the vocals and mixing which makes this recording sound like a major studio production. A number of horn instruments are utilized throughout this work to provide a Day Of The Dead sensibility that is celebrated annually in Mexico. Since the release of Severe, T. Nathan Roane has left the band with Otley now carrying the entirety of the band's future. Roane's numerous wind instruments play like a premonitory farewell to this outfit, thereby making the music that much more macabre and bittersweet.

Afternoon introduces the listener to sampled background sounds and dark, brooding orchestration. Drum pummels are like hammers against a coffin. The vocals are carefully placed between the channels to provide a different sound through each ear, which is most apparent while wearing the headset. The trumpet carries through a cavernous space to give an eerie feel of Christmas melancholia and memory. Rooms spatially evolves and revolves into a soundscape that is like floating through a dark tunnel. A touch of bongo placement accompanies the keyboards and vocals where we are provided with a view of a isolationism fraught from memory which haunts us during the most mundane of hours. Severin opens with a whisper "I try, there is no one for me." This seems to be a double meaning type of song. Drum sounds beat in time, imitating a heart heavy with dismay as the feet drag in exhausted abandon. We are strangers on a train, weary travelers with a ticket to nowhere. It is a political song in a way, depicting the one who is pulled from our arms during upheaval and unrest. It almost sounds like gunfire and missiles, harmonizing with a trumpet which calls to the newly departed. It can also be interpreted as a song of love and loss where the "gunfire" is misspent fireworks that have shot off and finally lost their spark and their zeal.

Prayer treats us to a spoken rendition of the lord's prayer that is suffused underneath the sound. Metaphorically, the lyrics can be interpreted as a battle between devotion and sexuality. It is also a moody and mournful tome of love and loss. Old is a beautifully mournful yet serene rumination that provides a movie like soundtrack inflection. Otley vocally handles the aging aspect with subtle intonations and turns of lyric. Roane provides the background harmony tenor to the memory that is unfolding through the song. One can visualize an elderly person pondering their reflection in the mirror. They envision pulling together to find the extra strength to make it through yet another lonely day among the ruins of memory. Beckon samples a variety of sounds. This was reminiscent of one who falls asleep in front of the television while their dreams call out to them from the nether reaches. Throughout the song, the samples sound like loops of thunder, rain and ocean waves upon the shore. The steady drum beat that plays in tune with the trumpet balances our desire and reality through frequent upbeat tones layered across the soundscapes.

Hope utilized more electronic effects with a mid tempo beat. The song was delivered in a relative soto voce, pulling us further into the headset of one who is drawn to their lover but so deeply fears the loss of their love. All the emotions seem to collide causing such confusion that examination of these emotions leaves one unsure of what they truly feel. Revere creates an intriguing instrumental hybrid of world music, dark wave and ethereal rhythm patterns. It is a cacophony that is reminiscent of a room playing back all the sounds that were ever played within its walls. The sounds of love, joy, and heartache collide and feed off each other as an auditory snapshot to a sad room where now there is only silence. One could actually envision the artist sitting in the middle of the room while the walls played back these fragmented audio memories. Source ends the disc with very smoldering, pensive, deep, and dark tones, which segue into a gentle mid tempo rhythm. The vocals are heavily reverbed in a circuitous fashion. Snippets of dialogue from Roane weave between the song, relaying a memory of religious belief and the discourse between insanity and demonic possession, while Otley's vocals provide a macabre mirror for this backdrop. Loathe is the most guitar-laden track on the disc where the music is at the forefront while the vocals take a backseat. Acoustically this could pass for a something as created by the Fields of the Nephilim as it has that type of stylized intensity.

Vehemence Realized utilized horn instruments in the most pleasing way which added additional texture and moodiness to the songs. It is not often that this instrument is utilized in dark music, hence the fluidity and deft handling of it to convey the added touches of the morose is a tribute to this artist. Otley's vocals skillfully handled the multiple inflections required to place the songs within a particular dark parameter. His deep voice resonates without trying to sound like a "clone" from any other dark music vocalist. Much of this work seems to convey double meanings as evidenced by the shifting lyrical content and changes of mood throughout each track. The lyrics are not included, thus the listener is provided with an audio canvas that allows them to tug at their own memory to paint the scope of the setting. Overall, this CD would make a great late night accompaniment to the mental musings of dark music fans. It is also sublime for dreary overcast days. It is with great pleasure that I look forward to the follow up work of Otley and his musical visions.

Contact Information:
Post: Vehemence Realized, Michael Otley, 708 S. 15th St., Philadelphia, PA, 19146