LABEL: Napalm Records
RELEASE: June 23rd, 2023
AUTHOR: Michael Estrada

VEXED albumrand

01. PTSD
02. Anti-Fetish
03. We Don’t Talk About It
04. X My <3 (Hope To Die)
05. Panic Attack
06. Lay Down Your Flowers (feat. Lochie Keogh / Alpha Wolf)
07. There’s No Place Like Home
08. Extremist
09. Default
10. Trauma Euphoria
11. It’s Not The End
12. DMT
13. Nepotism

On 2021’s Culling Culture, the UK’s trio debut, VEXED put the metal scene on notice with a record that pulled no punches and took no prisoners. It was a breath of fresh air in the scene and, despite the album’s abrasive nature, the band put themselves on the map. The followup now, just two years later, proves that they haven’t lost their edge or their potent messaging. As much as the sounds look to knock you out, there is a strong statement festering within. This sophomore effort may be called Negative Energy, but it is more about confronting it head on than spitting it at you.

VEXED MeganTake Anti-Fetish as a key example. After the opener PTSD eerily sets the mood, Megan‘s vocals rip through with reckless abandon but pointed accuracy. There’s the firm assault on misogyny within the lyrics but also a biting criticism on comparisons they’ve had to endure. Megan, Jay and Willem are clearly fed up with it and have no qualms about getting in the trenches and setting the record correct. It is all ugly and off-putting, thankfully VEXED excels at fighting fire with fire. The instrumentals here, and throughout the album, harken to something as grimy or as dark as Nine Inch Nails, but swapping any sinister seduction of that industrial sound to more an anarchist tinge, i.e. 3Teeth.

We Don’t Talk About It has pitch shifts in the verses as Megan confronts childhood trauma and survivor’s guilt. Matching the harrowing subject manner, the instrumentals once again set the tone, scratching and scraping along the track. Similarly, Panic Attack centers on mental health, along with the terrors and frustrations that come with it. The band maintains a balance of heaviness and grooviness, seemingly teetering back and forth. In between, however, is X my <3 (Hope To Die) which sees a sharp tongued Megan eviscerate anyone who claims the moral high ground. It as violent and brutal as anything on Culling Culture with a more profound sense of rebellion. Jumping into pitch black uncertainty but with a hardened resolve is something I expect nothing less from VEXED at this point.

These points of contention and galvanizing aggresion continue on Lay Down Your Flowers, which features a guest spot from Alpha Wolf vocalist Lochie Keogh. Extremist is as heavy in similar fashion and the brutal attack that VEXED excel in never wears thin. Few bands manage to marry the elements of deathcore and alternative metal with such a deft hand this early in their careers. Though that facet may be their bread and butter at this point, the more impressive parts of this record are the wrinkles they add in that make them stand out even more now.

Tracks such as Default, Trauma Euphoria and It’s Not The End display the cleaner aspects of the band as a whole, proving that Megan has incredible range to her voice and the band can excel in the more melodic aspects of their sound. These songs are dynamic, emotional and provide a strong juxtaposition to most of the work early on in the album and within Culling Culture. All of this is evidence of a band evolving and growing their sound, not afraid to expand. The instrumental cut, DMT, is something else the band flexes to show they have much more in their arsenal. Of course, the band ends with another exclamation and condemnation on the track Nepotism, just to prove that no vitriol was sacrificed in their venture into the other side of their newly unveiled sound.

What VEXED manage to pull off on Negative Energy is as impressive as it is exciting. Much like Viscera did earlier this year with their second album Carcinogenesis, a UK band has put out one of the best metal albums this year as they further improve their heavy aspects while exploring their cleaner side. Culling Culture may have been a punch to the face, but Negative Energy is making sure you’re paying attention.