Vexed – Negative Energy (Napalm)

Friday, 23rd June 2023
Rating: 9.5/10

Vexed came storming in with their Napalm debut in 2021 with Culling Culture. A brutal assault for sure, but still captured a catchy, melodic side at times that helped it blur the lines between modern metal, deathcore, djent, and more. Regardless of the labels, it was a visceral listen that grabbed you with aggression and grooves, occasionally stopping to soothe you with some melodic elements. Two years later, we are treated to the band’s return, and they’ve doubled down on the aggression. Negative Energy is seemingly exactly that – a cathartic release of pent up aggression and anger that feels nothing short of exhilarating. But most importantly, it’s barbs hit in tune with today’s society lyrically, in a scathing attack that is as poetic as it is piercing.

It’s hard to separate the downright venomous lyrics from their equally savage musicianship. Vocalist Megan Targett spews eloquently caustic lyrics from start to finish, with songs like the punishingly brutal “Extremist,” groovy and hypnotic “Nepotism,” and hooky yet visceral “X My <3 (Hope to Die)” all deliver some riveting social commentary in addition to the top shelf kinetic energy each track provides. But other tracks hit on a deep emotional level too, such as “We Don’t Talk About It” or the most melodic and touching cut, “It’s Not the End.” The latter track providing the most clean vocals to be had on the album, and some of the most poignant feelings.

That said, the album hits like a battering ram. But it’s far from being a one-note wonder. Between the djent-y grooves, playful guitar melodies, Targett’s diverse yet brutal vocal delivery, and the overall urgency of the music, the tracks feel more individualized than you might think. First single “Anti-Fetish” delivers big grooves and headbang-worthy riffing, but wows with it’s sheer adrenaline and overwhelming intensity. The sampling in “There’s No Place Like Home” meshes well with the playful instrumentation that weaves in and out of the riffing. Even Targett’s vocal diversity gives reason to appreciate it too – the almost scat-like assault of lines in “Default” switching over to clean vocals and then snarled, guttural vocals keeps you consistently on your toes and eager for more.

While bands tend to get more mellow and relaxed, Vexed’s sophomore effort is unrelenting in aggression, yet never lets you take your eyes and ears off of it. Negative Energy is a compelling listen that is much more catchy than it has any right to be, despite having a sound that feels like the band is collectively pissed off to their very cores. Given the excellent lyrical content, it’s also safe to say that Vexed’s latest is as socially important as it is sonically crushing – making Negative Energy one of the most compelling albums to be released in 2023 so far. Don’t sleep on this band, as it seems they are continually coming into their own.

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