Reunions are such a tricky business. A band will never be followed under such scrutiny and (often biased) critique than if they’ve disbanded and eventually reunited. You can double up the cynicism if we’re talking about a band who were universally lauded and respected within their genre during their original incarnation. How do you even go about the concept of getting your old band back together and not making it seem like a cash-in? Should you be honest about your motives, take the money and run ala At The Drive-In? Or should you try to make it seem like you were never away and attempt a new album ala Soundgarden? And regardless of your decision, how do you make anything you do seem tasteful and necessary? Are your band even still relevant in the modern scene? Will even the adoring throng you had the first time round still care? These are questions every band making the hasty decision to reunite must face. And truthfully, they apply to a band like Vision Of Disorder in a way most bands couldn’t comprehend.
Although quite a small prospect even at the height of their commercial viability, Vision Of Disorder are one of the most important bands of all time when it comes to the shape of the hardcore scene in 2012. You can hear their savage riffage, unconventional song structures and world beating choruses today in every band from The Dillinger Escape Plan to Killswitch Engage, and hardcore fans will often lump their 1998 magnum opus Imprint in with Converge’s Jane Doe and Poison The Well’s The Opposite Of December in regards to its influence on the hardcore and metalcore movements that flourished in their wake. With that in mind, the suggestion of a new Vision Of Disorder album comes with its fair share of risks. To maintain any standard of credibility, VOD have to at the very least match the consistency of their back catalogue, and under the sardonic eyes of the hardcore community (especially in America), this is under no circumstances an easy task.
But within the first 20 seconds of album opener ‘Loveless’, it seems as though they just might stand a chance. Matt Baumbach and Mike Kennedy’s truly monstrous riffs are all there alongside Tim Williams’ unmistakeable growl and his effervescent clean singing on the massive chorus, and of course one of the most skilled rhythm sections in metal in Brendon Cohen and Mike Fleischmann, amply keeping up with the constantly shifting tempos and mind-bending guitar work. But what is instantly striking is how youthful it sounds. It certainly doesn’t sound like the work of a band in its 20th year of existence, and even less so like the work of a band who haven’t recorded together in more than 10 years. That it continues in much of the same vein and rarely decreases in quality makes it all the more remarkable considering that this is a comeback album.
As opposed to the “experimental” nature of their last full length album From Bliss To Devastation, The Cursed Remain Cursed plays largely to VOD’s strengths, staying mostly away from any kind of dynamic shifts or radical shifts in direction and instead veering from lurching heaviness to neck-snapping thrash. But what holds it all together is their innate sense of groove and song, as showcased on the brilliant ‘Blood Red Sun’ and the almost extreme metal stylings of ‘Annihilator’, which has flashes of Slayer and Sick Of It All all at once. Elsewhere, ‘Skullz Out (Rot In Pieces)’ pulsates like 1995-era Alice In Chains before breaking into Every Time I Die territory in its middle section, but the album is not without its moments of supposed filler, with ‘The Enemy’ coming off as little more than a B-Side and questionable choice of album closer ‘Heart And Soul’ dabbling in dreamy soundscapes, which is quite jarring after the barrage of metallic hardcore and ferocity that makes up the rest of the album. But these are just minor forks in the road of an album that is so intimidatingly strong and consistent – an album that you’d be forgiven for thinking they didn’t have in them.
In summation, The Cursed Remain Cursed is one of the highest quality hardcore releases of 2012, and one of the rare comeback albums that more than justifies its hype. Skilled and inventive songwriting aside, it is an album made up of performances that younger bands have previously strived for but have gotten lost amongst over-production and stagnation, with a production job that highlights their individual skills and makes sure that every second is the heaviest it can be without sacrificing any of its clarity, something of a rarity in metal these days. The down-picking duo of Baumbach and Kennedy sound so vital and excited to be playing their new creations that it’s difficult to not be inspired by the sheer number of ideas on display here, and that they have managed to meld the bottomless pile of riffs that lesser bands would give their first-borns for into 11 concise and coherent songs is astonishing. Along with Williams’ knack for creating gigantic hooks whether he’s destroying his voice box or delivering a sing-a-long chorus, they can’t lose. This is a more than deserving addition to their enduring legacy. It’s always the influential ones that break up, isn’t it? Thank God Vision Of Disorder didn’t lose any of their spark in the decade plus they were away. This just might be the only time a reunion has been done the proper way.
2. Set To Fail
3. Blood Red Sun
4. Hard Times
6. Skullz Out (Rot In Pieces)
7. The Enemy
8. The Seventh Circle
9. New Order Of Ages
10. Be Up On It
11. Heart And Soul