Canada is no stranger to traditional heavy metal, and newcomers Vicious are bringing this sound to the east coast of my homeland! “First Drop of Venom” is their debut record, and is an extremely mixed bag. The overall sound is consistent throughout, but the quality of riffs, vocal performance, and songwriting are very up and down. While there are obvious standout tracks, this applies even within tracks. Take the opener “Cruisin’”, for example: the lyrics are a bit cringy, and the main riff sounds a bit childish (in other words, it isn’t particularly offensive or energetic), but then the chorus comes in and is wickedly catchy, showing some awesome pipes from singer and drummer Jake Gracie. As a whole, Jake tends to be a pretty good singer. His voice sounds pretty natural, and not like it was trained, which is definitely a good thing for this genuine style of metal. He even has the ability to his some of those ear-piercing screams, such as on the chorus of “Wildcat”. In fact, they sound so great that I wish he would do it more often. As enjoyable of a singer as he is, the vocals are enhanced when gang shouts are used. This is most noticeable on tracks like "Free Man" and "Wildcat", but occurs fairly frequently.
From a musical standpoint, Vicious brings all of the trademarks of heavy metal. Pumping riffs, harmonies, and catchy melodies. “Engage The Blade” opens with a killer Accept-esque riff that is sure to get some fists pounding live. I think where the song, and the record as a whole specifically falters in this aspect is that there doesn’t seem to be enough attitude in the performance. The production is somewhat laid-back and doesn’t accentuate the heaviness or the speed of the riffs. This is why, as mentioned earlier, I think the gang vocals are so effective on the album: because they bring in that aggression I’m looking for in this album. Additionally, while there are some good guitar solos present, they aren’t quite as frequent one might hope. Adding in truly insane solos at every opportunity would be another compliment to increasing intensity. The latter half of the record shows many of its best tracks. “Free Man” is painfully catchy, and it opens with some wicked Iron Maiden-esque riffs. The following track, “Bring Down The Hammer”, marks another highlight in that it will also force you to sing along after just a couple of listens. In fact, with some different track placement, the band could have given a substantially different effect on this record.
Despite the fact that this review has sounded pretty negative, “First Drop of Venom” is actually a really good record. Often times it is easier to ramble on about a band that is on the precipices of greatness. Vicious has a lot of the elements down, but it doesn’t come together perfectly to create a brilliant record. It might be a bit discouraging seeing how others like Skull Fist and Axxion came out of the gate with brilliant debuts, but a lot of other bands have gotten better over time, and I see Vicious being a band that will improve considerably with each release. If you dig traditional heavy metal, this is a band to keep an eye on, and “First Drop of Venom” will definitely still appeal to you.
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"Engage The Blade"
"Bring Down The Hammer"
3.75/5 or 75%.
Written by Scott