Finally following on from their singles released so far, Vatic released their debut EP Inhibition last week. The five tracks include the previously released single “Elegy” (which features Thornhill‘s vocalist Jacob Charlton) and their latest single, “Shade”. I’ve come into my review not having seen or read anything about the band’s intention or inspiration behind the EP, so I was keen for the music of Inhibition to do the talking.
Opening track “Bottles” comes across soft and curious first, falling like raindrops while also promising heaviness to come. Without any kind of fanfare, raw vocals join in and seemingly express a loss of grip. Then distant and lost, a simple melody persists without being overwhelming. Djenty frustration lands, before something more whispery with floaty instrumentation appears, coming across as a state of being ungrounded and adrift.
I take the experience as one of brokenheartedness and the self-hatred for becoming fixated on the bliss, even at its end. The experience is tied into the role of alcohol as a ‘solution’ of choice which adds its own complications. A conflict between clarity and suppression is apparent, courtesy of searching singing and anguished screams. Stand out features to “Bottles” for me include how that combination feels, as well as the the guitar and bass tones, and the Placebo-esque tone of voice with the singing. “Bottles” ends defiantly, matching the “familiar hell” they describe.
The introduction to second track “Fibreglass” combines a pretty sexy breakdown with piano; something that’s an unexpected combination that comes across as threatening and sad at the same time. Though the appearance of contemplative and heavy as we heard in “Bottles” gives a moment of “I’ve heard this before”, I fall into the tension of “Fibreglass” nonetheless. Punching and pummeling, the track is thick with “bleugh”s and djent density, and so is different enough with this tumbling urgency. I appreciate the guitar behind the relatively monotone vocals and the flow and direction it gives the song.
The track features a pause/open moment that seems like falling and flowing and being in the gentle ebb and flow of life, courtesy of waves of guitar and a breezy atmosphere. But sudden crashing waves sweep more into conflict and ache, courtesy of guitar and vocals. Layers present a back-and-forth conversation, before a last effort of fury as the song comes to an end.
My immediate impression, sans lyrics, was that this track was pure distaste. Later with lyrics in hand, it seemed to detail the mistake of trusting a backstabbing person and share the resulting experience of deception. Physical fibreglass can sting despite its usefulness. Is this metaphor where the song name came from? It was also around this point of reviewing the EP that I got wondering as to how “inhibition” tied in to these songs.
“Shade” carries that same breezy atmosphere as “Fibreglass” at its introduction, which could come across as connection or repetition between tracks. Downward sliding, Inhibition‘s third track oozes grief and heaviness of feeling, with the sung parts of the song feeling like a desperate attempt to shine some sun through dark clouds. This same feature is also a clear point of difference than what we’ve heard so far.
“Shade” is skin-crawling and downward-sliding courtesy of whispers and its burgeoning sound, expressing unrestrained failure. Or shall I say “uninhibited”? Growing ever more dense, interest is kept with a flowing soundscape running alongside the thickened sections, and vocal rhythms and sentiments are amplified.
Though “Elegy” has been out for over a year, I have no concerns or complaints with the song appearing on Inhibition. In fact its appearance on the EP (and doing this review) has had me see it differently than I had previously. It also brought more bounce/groove than the previous tracks and an openness that seemed welcoming toward the curious. Circular riffs and urging rhythms of “Elegy” come across as being stuck in a loop frustratingly.
Experiencing the songs with the lyrics reveals clearly how something unwanted has return to the protagonist’s mind. They realise how affected they are, instead of their idea that they were unaffected/fine. A softly sung section that grows in tension and frustration reflects this well. Jacob Charlton’s feature embodies him as the formerly buried pain that’s attempting to converse with the protagonist. This is a pretty fucking cool use of an ‘outsider’s voice in a song, in my opinion, instead of a feature for the heck of it, which can frequently happen. But the pain/Charlton is refused acknowledgement or attention and ends up being drowned out by anger and fear.
Final track “Songbird” is initially zorbing and growing, feeling somewhat warped before a stomping pace and stream of questions comes at the listener. The line “These conversations are the death of me, oh” seems to cue a change of attitude/stance and then the line “I’ll spread my wings” shifts into something fuller, feeling like literal wings unfurling.
The track is contemplative before expressing fierceness and determination wrapped up in one. It hooks into a similar mental frustration that we’ve heard previously in Inhibition, in wanting to forget but feeling like those things are present and threatening. Memories, thoughts, and beliefs are wrestled with a lot through these 16 minutes. The mood is dark and ominous before a spoken word section unfolds. I wanted this section to have a Make Them Suffer “Save Yourself” kind of effect on me, but unfortunately the presence of some American sounding inflections dampened some of the authenticity for me.
With that, the EP is over and I’m left considering the concept of “inhibition” again in the context of what I’ve heard. Across the EP, the inhibition is somewhat self-inflicted in not facing things, by inhibiting one’s embrace of everything that’s going on within them. And though inhibitions are loosened by alcohol, there’s damaging effects of this option. The strong themes of mind and memory also fit into the idea of being inhibited by the grip of the mind.
Inhibition hooks into past hurts and the handling of them, acknowledging how trying to run away from them doesn’t work. It speaks of the haunting joys of something that was great in the past, even if it isn’t now, and a desperate quest to let go of the fixations of the good and even the bad. There’s learnings shared about trust, and wrestlings with what the cinema of the mind decides to screen at any given moment. Low moments feature, as do admissions of inadequacy, as well as the desire to be something greater.
I take Inhibition as an exploration of someone’s flawed and real life, and the haunting they’re experiencing on a daily basis of what they’d rather not face. To me, a swinging between “I’ll spread my wings” and “A withered man I’ll ever be” goes a little way in explaining why lighter contemplative moments are juxtaposed to crushing heaviness.
I feel like Vatic have a huge amount of potential as a band, but we're not quite fully seeing what they can do yet. I guess you could say they're not yet spreading their metaphorical wings, and this may be due to their own unique collection of inhibitions that keep them withheld. They're good at expressing a conflicted state of being, and they tick metalcore boxes with their "bleugh"s, breakdowns, and djenty moments, but I feel like there's far more they have up their sleeves, and I want to hear it!
Vatic's vocalists work great together and the band features strong musicians. Lyrically interesting and covering a variety of moods.
Some of the similarities across songs could have them feeling too 'samey'. I wanted the appearance of mood-setting instrumental moments to feel meaningful in terms of what was being shared with the song, but that wasn't clear.