Typically when a long standing group returns with a new vocalist, the results are lackluster at best. Example, does anyone remember the album STONE TEMPLE PILOTS did with the guy from LINKIN PARK? Yeah. I don’t blame you. I try to forget that sweaty turd as well. Or even better, the two records IRON MAIDEN did with Blaze Bayley? Again, another hopeless load that would’ve been better off having been blasted into a tube sock, let alone released. However, RAUNCHY have overcome the singer replacement failures that have plagued too many groups over the years. In 2013, the band announced the addition of Ex-THE HAARP MACHINE vocalist Mike Semesky as frontman. You may also know him from last year’s INTERVALS record A Voice Within. If you read my top list of the past year, you would’ve seen that the disc made my top 10 list, and for good reason. Simply put, Semesky is a strong candidate for the most talented singer in current day metal.
With him in tow, the group releases their sixth record, Vices. Virtues. Visions., on January 20, through Massacre Records. The album continues the sound pioneered by their earlier efforts, offering a potent mix of metal and electronics that will have you scratching your head as you ponder whether to bang your head or shake your ass. Adding an additional layer, the vocals move effortlessly between throat-shredding screams and pop-influenced clean melodies, offering moments of sweet release after the heavier portions of each song. While I thoroughly enjoyed the play between the instruments and vocals, I do have to point out my few objections to the disc, which mainly focuses on the electronics used. I am egregiously selective about the use of synth in metal. That said, I hate most electronic forms of music; I don’t dance and to me it sounds like two fax machines fucking. But I digress.
Listening to V.V.V., I was drawn into the songs that relied more on guitars than samples; noting that my preference would have been to keep the guitars upfront, allowing the electronics to play as background melody. Lead single “Truth Taker” features a more subdued use of such elements, playing out as a more straight ahead melodic metal track. The chorus was the first of the disc to drill its way into my head, making it easily my favorite of the collection. The two follow up numbers, “Digital Dreamer” and “Never Enough” keep a similar momentum of allowing the more mainstream metallic elements to take the lead. The group throws a dodgeball with “Luxuria”, referencing southern metal influences; this song shows a great contrast with its successor. Where “Luxuria” is a fun, energetic romp, “I, Avarice” is serious. However, that stern position provides what is one of the most riveting performances of the record, plus it happens to feature a ripping lead that I found inspiring. The closing tracks “Clarity” and “The Singularity Heart” move from pop-metal to epic, European melo-metal that borders the line of progressive.
In reaching a final verdict, I still maintain my position that EDM and metal should rarely meet, however, the majority of Vices. Virtues. Visions. allowed these two opposing worlds to clash in a way that was harmonious to my ears. In fact, I find the group’s use of a centralized metal platform a more effective way to introduce their synth components, when seen in comparison to their pop-metal counterparts who attempt to mix death metal vocals with breakdowns and dancehall playbacks. Where those groups fail, RAUNCHY succeeds. I suggest giving the record a spin. Drop your elitist frame of mind, remember that 80’s metal was over 20 years ago, and give these guys an open mind and an open ear.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Truth Taker”, “Digital Dreamer”, “Never Enough”, “Luxuria”, “I, Avarice”