It is absolutely no secret that I love the solo project turned full on band from Converge frontman Jacob Bannon in Wear Your Wounds, I literally gushed about their newest record on this very site AND did a live writeup from Saint Vitus. The lineup being comprised of players from some of the defining heavy bands of my upbringing in Hatebreed, Cave In, and The Red Chord was another drawing point. When Sean Martin, Mike McKenzie and Jacob Bannon were in rehearsals for WYW, they would naturally mess around with heavy riffs and this was the genesis for Umbra Vitae.
The trio recruited their rhythm section by grabbing Red Chord bassist Greg Weeks and drummer Jon Rice from Job For A Cowboy. The resulting album, Shadow Of Life, is a stellar and brutal debut chock full of frenetic blast beats and chugging rhythm sections. Bannon’s vocals on top of death metal is an intense experience I didn’t know that I wanted. His renewed interest in the genre is the result of focusing on the experimental non aggressive material in Wear Your Wounds. Bannons distorted trademark barks are complimented by McKenzie’s guttural low end growls throughout the record. McKenzie handled all guitar/bass production and the results are straight up brutal ear candy. The crunchy, midrange soaked guitars pair well with Kurt Ballou’s trademark GodCity Studio drums, complete with their punchy tonality and room soaked snare hits.
The record opens with an ominous instrumental piece in “Decadence Dissolves” before exploding into the blast beat and double kick attack of “Ethereal Emptiness”. The dissonant rhythm guitars transition into a half time romp that will induce head banging live once this quarantine is over with. Besides sharing members, the bridge between Umbra Vitae and Wear Your Wounds is further emphasized with the track titled “Atheist Aesthetic”, as I purchased a t-shirt styled as a 1970’s self help book with that very title at the Wear Your Wounds show at Saint Vitus. The track itself is a furious two minute beatdown alternating between blast beats and down picked chugging madness.
The album closer and title track, “Shadow Of Life”, is the record’s longest and most diverse. The frenetic and high paced sound that Umbra Vitae has showcased up until this point is on full display, before divulging into a slower romp with McKenzies haunting leads dominating the back half until the record fades out. Any fan of heavy music with any sort of attraction to the aforementioned bands MUST check this record out. I spent many listens with the record cranked on my Sonos system and twice as many with headphones.
Shadow of Life is out this Friday, May 1st via Deathwish Inc.