Vampyre – Hot Ears

2 out of 5

Label: Sefl-released

Produced by: Ian Rundell

Quality lyrics, and some intense riffage are self-defeated by a recording and mastering that renders the entirety of the album at approximately the same range – loud – and compositions that neither offer vocalist Brandon Booker enough room to be more expressive than talk-shouty, or the music to vary too much from one aggressive punky slam constructed of seemingly only a few notes.

Essentially a hardcore punk act, Vampyre surely have the chops: Booker’s snarl is always fierce; Bryan Davis’ drums keep the pace and intesity throughout, and Drake Moreno’s / Zachary Parker Ingram’s rhythm section delivers a non-stop run of distorted math-y note blarings.

The fact that almost all of the tracks are similarly paced and structured isn’t exactly the issue, as plenty of classic punk rock albums constructed of 2-minute tracks and 3 chords can attest. However, within that, there must be variability, and Vampyre opts for a very up-front, flat recording style that prevents moments where they break for some technically impressive time-changes and head-banging bridges to land: there’s never any real aural indication of those breaks, or even much tonal range – there’s no patience. And while I’m sure the group is heading up and down the fretboard, we don’t hear it; it might as well be a single power chord.

What’s frustrating is that there’s definitely some cool stuff in there, from Grim Defile’s changeups between punk and hardcore, and Life Invisible occasionally favoring a more paced crunch that helps to elevate its speedier moments, and any given single track is undeniably intense. It’s just that the next track almost ends up sounding identical.

Booker’s lyrics add a worthwhile component to this – gloomy narratives / thoughts that are descriptive without being alienating – that could also be granted greater intensity (whether you’re reading along or not) by music that plays up highs and lows, as opposed to just going all-out at all times, and without the oversight to give such an attack the occasional breathing room it needs to keep on at such a pace.