Umbra Vitae : Light of Death

Umbra Vitae Light of Death review

Shadow of Life, the 2020 debut album by metal supergroup Umbra Vitae (featuring members of Converge and The Red Chord), was a love letter to the classic death metal bands that influenced them. Its follow-up, Light of Death, offers no such tribute, nor does it attempt to be death metal. It winks in the direction of death metal with certain riffs that crop up, but at its heart, it is the work of a collection of musicians playing to their own strengths. Take, for instance, vocalist Jacob Bannon, who plays a more prominent role here with screams that are more comparable to what he does in Converge—fewer guttural vocals, more violent emoting.  

Mike McKenzie and Sean Martin’s riffs are still catchy even in their more chaotic moments, and—as if to serve as an example to all bands at the extreme end of their respective genres—Bannon’s more punk-minded bark emerges on “Anti-Spirit Machine.” His lyrics with Converge have always been vividly poetic, if you can make out what he is screaming. Here, it can take a few listens before you can make out anything aside from the gang vocals on the chorus, though there is a killer riff on this one with a thrashing chug to provide a beefy backbone.

The grindcore temper tantrum of “Reality in Retrograde” is where the overall lyrical narrative begins to take form amid the acidic throat scorching. The album seems to be a commentary on the willfully distracted and disillusioned society that is facing its reckoning. This is a fitting accompaniment to the unhinged orchestration of the album’s sonic barrage. It takes more than another Entombed tribute to provide the necessary soundtrack to a world too self-consumed to see the apocalypse live streaming in real time. 

Yet it’s all tempered with moments of beauty. The centerpiece is the dark, moody, almost post-punk brooding of “Velvet Black,” on which it’s more apparent that the group are not conforming to any genre. Its status is elevated as the album’s best song thanks to Bannon, who comes closer to an actual croon. All too often when the term “metalcore” is used anymore it often denotes something that should have died with Myspace, instead of a much more powerful and furious anthem like that which unfolds on “Twenty Twenty Vision.”

On Light of Death, Umbra Vitae also capture a rawer guitar tone. They have more in common with Converge than most of the more common death metal sound, which tends to be mixed like chainsaws being used to dismember corpses. The more spacious tone applied to the guitars on this album allows for a sonic heaviness rather than just a heavy metal attack. The album does have a few moments when things collide in a more jarring fashion, such as “Cause and Effect,” which requires a few listens to fully digest. 

The bleak condemnation of a collapsing society continues on “Deep End,” and goes even a step further on “Nature vs Nurture.” Light of Death is the type of sonic punishment your ears deserve, a grower with every listen that spews venom out of sheer honesty.

Label: Deathwish Inc.

Year: 2024

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Umbra Vitae Light of Death review

Umbra Vitae: Light of Death

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