Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
Nearly two years ago, when rumors first began to surface about a collaboration between legendary metal guitarist Dan Lorenzo (Hades, Non-Fiction, The Cursed) and Ancient VVisdom vocalist Nathan “Opposition” Jochum, no one knew what to expect.
Of course, 2017 brought the powerful S/T début from the duo, who had adopted the moniker of VESSEL OF LIGHT, and released the effort through Italy’s Argonauta Records. The album was a success, a critically acclaimed offering that eventually assisted in my interviewing Lorenzo [HERE] and landed on my own Top Albums Of 2017 [LINK].
Now, here we are in October, 2018, and VESSEL OF LIGHT have returned with a follow-up record, ‘Woodshed‘, released once again through Argonauta (Sept. 21st). Let me cut right to the chase if I may… you know that old adage about how lightning never strikes the same spot twice? Well, that could be true for all I know, but let me say this: while lightning may not, Light can strike the same BAND twice, and that is indeed the case here with VESSEL OF LIGHT.
Not only that, but VESSEL OF LIGHT has also combated another well-proven attribute of lore applicable to many bands, one about the “sophomore album curse”. Yes, it is my opinion, my wholehearted belief, and proclamation, that here, VESSEL OF LIGHT have managed to extensively outdo the unquestionably superb work of their initial release.
‘Woodshed‘ is a monumental jump ahead for the pair, one that sees hopeful expectations of a “decent follow-up” obliterated to smithereens. They did not merely settle for a continuation of ground covered on their first outing, oh hell no! They apparently discarded the blueprints and went for a thorough reinvention of themselves and their music. What terrains they previously touched upon in the 2017 S/T album are now explored to a far further extent. If there was an element of psychedelia on the self-titled, here it is now equivalent to an over-saturated tab of LSD.
If there were doom-y nuances on that first record, here, there is a head-first descent into the spiritual condemnation of V.O.L.‘s shared sonic soul. Allow me to elaborate… from the first modicum of music to emanate from the introductory title track, “Woodshed“, we are subjected to the undeniable presence of Iommian riff worship. Albeit a brief intro, the funeral-esque feel of this audible start is more than enough to shudder your very soul.
From there, we climb further down this staircase into the bowels of Southern blues ala “Part Of My Plan“. The plodding chug of this number evoked some odd images for me, one of a blackened snail slowly making its way across a razor blade, a visual epitome of the dichotomous conflict of agony versus ecstasy. The other image? The Eugene Martone (Ralph Macchio) vs. Jack Butler (Steve Vai) face off in the 1986 film ‘Crossroads’, where the pair vie for souls and salvation, in the guitar-based dueling referred to as “cutting heads”.
Why the hell would I envision such things from hearing this music? No idea, but it speaks volumes as to the symbolic aspect of what serves as such a strong catalyst. Between Dan’s wizard-like crafting of gargantuan riffs with deep, deep grooves, like those found on “Son Of Man“, “Beyond The Cellar Door“, or “One Way Out“, and Nathan’s haunting, soulful vocalizations ala “A Love So True” or “End It All“, the pair take us to a variety of emotional planes.
Beyond the aural realms of psych-doom, grunge, and acid blues there are undeniable dimensions of heavy metal that heave themselves at you from within the album. Some of the doomiest ones are riveted into a pair of back-to-back metallic heavyweights, “Watching The Fire” and “Beyond The Cellar Door“. They rally around the power of the riff, of course, but Nathan injects some absolutely striking vocal performances here (everywhere, really).
Anyone that is remotely familiar with Nathan’s vocalizations within Ancient VVisdom, or the previous Vessel Of Light album, know the strengths of their uniqueness. You might say they are “laid back”, but they are not subtle in any sense. No, in most cases they are the embodiment of a sinister swagger.
“Man’s Sins” finds Nathan unleash some of the most aggressive voices I’ve ever heard him emit and they are powerful. Hell, the entire song is a monstrous ass kick of southern-infused metal, the non-stop onslaught of its constant riffing and uptempo timing, those vocals, and everything else contained within it, makes it one of my favorite songs here.
Speaking of vocals, I am pretty sure that I hear Dan contributing some of his own to this album. His verbalized contributions to “One Way Out” and “Day Of Rest” are of an aggro-styling, volatile and vicious utterances making their presence known. Perhaps the strongest example of unified vocal work on this album – in the sense of collaboration between Dan and Nathan both – is in a cut I mentioned earlier, “Part Of My Plan“. The trade-offs, the back and forth of Nathan’s “It’s all a part of my plan” and Dan’s “It’s all a part of his plan“, in the latter section of the song is just infectious.
It is a good word to describe the collected contents of this work of collaborative artistry. Like anything infectious, all it takes is a singular introduction, in this case to the music itself. Once that occurs, it then spreads. One listen to VESSEL OF LIGHT‘s sophomore album, ‘Woodshed‘ (via our stream), and I believe this is sure to happen.
This past week, I saw discussions about this record between some peers in the world of underground music. Some were saying that they hadn’t been into the previous S/T release but were enthusiastically enjoying ‘Woodshed‘. Others shared how this album was gradually growing on them like any great one usually does with further listening. To my point: don’t come to [the] ‘Woodshed‘ with any preconceived notions or judgment, just take it for what it is and see where that takes you when all is sung and done.
I will close with this: I find myself now firmly believing that lightning can indeed strike the same place twice, of this, I am well convinced. Metaphorically speaking, of course, and that in coming to accept this, other adages may also be truthful… say something like “History repeats itself”… when it comes to Best Albums Of The Year lists. ‘Nuff Said!