“THE COMBINE” Void and Vessel CD-Review by Dillon Collins
Newfoundland’s prog-metal titans The Combine cast an imposing shadow with their statement sophomore album, Void and Vessel
There’s a patronage to the genre of metal – forefathers we look to for guidance in all things – the sacred deities that we turn to for clarification in these troubling times. Names like Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford, Ozzy Osbourne, Bruce Dickinson.
We cannot properly assess our present without a looking into our past, and those are the names we reference, they the smiths that forged a sound we use as a marker for all metal present and future.
It takes a skilled hand, and an even steadier amount of heart and grit to hone a sound that defies parody, and somehow stands on its own amidst an endless sullied wave of cut and copied, mass-produced metal. And sure, there can be allusions, and comparisons (as much is natural in these times), but to craft a sound entirely your own, while tipping the hat to the legends of the past, well, that’s a f***ing tall order in 2017.
Enter The Combine, the tightly woven, yet frenziedly aggressive prog-metal dynamos from the foggy and fabled island of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
Following up a debut record like Witness, one that cemented the pairing of frontman/guitarist Taylor Roberts, lead guitarist Mike Mercer, bassist Mike Bell and drummer Chris Reid as serious players in Canada’s metal underground, yet they have smashed that glass ceiling with their sophomore effort, Void and Vessel.
The eight track compilation reads part journal, part lunatics diary, and part war cry that demands immediate attention. It is a stinging sonic statement and one of the finest prog-metal outings in years, and that includes offerings by admitted inspirations like Mastodon and Opeth.
Kicking off with the thrash overtones of the head-snapping Citadel and not missing an opportunity to surprise through the final faded guitar strums of the decidedly menacing closer Same, Again, Void and Vessel leaves no room for breathe, no opportunity for listener fatigue.
Picking standout cuts is a tireless effort, as there is little in the way of tardy or rushed presentation to be had. Victory Road could prove an appropriate score for some dystopian sci-fi epic, while the guttural back vocals of North Korea bolster the aggression, pairing well with the subdued, melodic and haunting The White Light.
Boiled down, Void and Vessel is not an album crafted for the inflexible, for the unwavering traditionalist. It is a statement of the here and now – the best of metal and all its forms – and a hybrid of what can be, should be and is.
The Combine are not your granddaddy’s metal, but they just might be your next addiction.
‘Void and Vessel’ is available now on Spotify, iTunes and Bandcamp. Visit thecombinemusic.com and the bands offical Facebook page @thecombinemusic for more.
Dillon Collins / MHF Magazine