Vektor became the thrash metal darlings of 2011 when they dropped Outer Isolation on an unsuspecting audience late last year, so when they came to town Sunday night I thought it would be a great opportunity to catch them because I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about them or really got what all the buzz was about. In fact, truth be told, I was actually more excited to see local tech thrashers Exmortus on the undercard. I got Vektor’s first album Black Future when it came out a few years ago, and though I liked it, I wasn’t terribly crazy about them. And when I listened to Outer Isolation I felt it was a very good album, certainly a step up in quality, but to my fickle ears, still didn’t quite see why everyone was going ape over it. The album made a lot of year-end lists and the more I listened to it the more it started to grow on me. But seeing them live gave me a whole new appreciation for this tech-thrash crew.
Unfortunately for me, I had just gotten back into town and was late to the show because it started at 5pm. I thought Exmortus would be the second to last band of the night so when I arrived at the Echo they were already more than half way through their set, much to my dismay. However I did manage to catch them perform 3 full songs so all was not lost. For those of you who don’t know Exmortus, they are a technical thrash band in the vein of Coroner with some old Slayer mixed in, but with a modern death/thrash sound. I instantly fell in love with their first album In Hatreds Flame and their latest, Beyond the Fall of Time, was certainly a step up in the songwriting department, incorporating even more traditional metal sounds. As for their performance, they were extremely tight, the riffs were monstrous and there was plenty of thrashing solos to be had. One of the funnier, guitar hero moments came during their last song where they did something that basically looked like a metal reach-around, where Conan and Sean Redline kinda twisted around each other, grabbed each other’s guitar and traded solos on the others guitar. Their technical skill is something that really sets them apart from the whole new-era thrash pack, but at the same time, technicality can only get you so far. I feel the reason these guys are still relatively unknown is because they have yet to put the whole songwriting/technical package together. If they continue to progress in the songwriting department, they will be a force to be reckoned with so you heard it here first, when that day comes, look out for Exmortus!
The next band to come onstage was Witchhaven, whom I had never heard of despite also being a local band. In fact I was a little disappointed that I missed most of Exmortus because of these guys, so I already had a chip on my shoulder when they hit the stage. But once they started in with the riffs my ears immediately perked up. Though not as technical as Exmortus, these guys had everyone banging their heads right off the bat with their blend of old Exodus/Slayer style riffs. Since I wasn’t familiar with them at all I had no idea what the song titles were, except for one that was not hard to remember called “Unholy Copulation”. Even though they weren’t the most original of bands, I really dug their riffs, the performance was tight and they were definitely good at what they did. If they continue to progress and mold their style and sound into something more their own then I think they would have something very worthwhile. All in all I enjoyed their performance and I would certainly recommend checking these guys out if they hit your town. After the show I went home and looked up their last full length Terrorstorm. If you get a chance, check out Witchhaven. Good stuff, good band and I look forward to seeing them again.
Finally the main act was up and the room was buzzing as everyone was fired up to see Arizona thrashers, Vektor. They started the show off with Outer Isolation opener “Cosmic Cortex”, and if there were any doubts about whether they could pull off their highly technical thrash in a live setting, they were immediately bludgeoned and buried. The pit exploded as their angular thrash attack had the bodies flying around. They played a few songs from the new album, including “Dying World” and “Fast Paced Society” but surprisingly played more off their debut Black Future, including my personal favorite “Asteroid”. One thing I have to mention is the uncanny resemblance of guitarist/singer Dave DiSanto’s vocals to German thrash god Schmier. In fact, I find their sound to be much more like Eternal Devastation-era Destruction mixed with some Coroner and VoiVod elements than to VoiVod as many have claimed (just because they write sci-fi lyrics, have space themes and are technical does not make them sound like VoiVod!!)
Their set was electric and devastating, and when it ended, the crowd got rabid and simply wouldn’t let them go without playing one more song (it was only 9:15pm for christ sakes!) so the band obliged and played the epic “Accelerating Universe” as their encore, igniting the pit into a frenzy one more time. I have to say I was highly impressed with their performance and was really glad I decided to come out and see them play. I can tell you I’m going to be spending a lot more time with Outer Isolation and afterwards I even dug out Black Future for a spin again. These guys really snuck up on me, and after seeing them live I realized that I really do like what they’re doing. Though I didn’t really consider them among the leaders of the modern thrash revival, I would honestly have to reconsider my position as they are a thoroughly impressive band all around. If you like good old heavy technical thrash then I can’t recommend them enough, I think the sky’s the limit for Vektor. I can’t remember the last time I was thoroughly surprised at a band performance, and even though there are many great shows still to come this year, this one will certainly be one of the most surprising, if not stand out shows at the end of the year.