Depending on where in the world you’re from, an array of things may come to mind when you hear “South Africa” – for most people it’s probably the rich history and the beauty of the country as a tourist destination. For me, two specific things come to mind: its cultural diversity and its undeniably brilliant music scene.
Home to some of Africa’s biggest music stars, South Africa has produced artists who have gone on to take the world by storm and conquer charts and festivals all across the globe. With that, it should come as no surprise that arguably one of the best death metal albums of the year has come from the Rainbow Nation: Praenuntius Infiniti by Johannesburg six-piece Vulvodynia.
Self-described as a “slam death bulldozer”, Vulvodynia’s fifth studio album is a testimony to the band’s dedication, musical prowess and all-around brutality. With an ominous intro that paints a sinister hellscape for what’s to come, the band’s thematic and musical inspirations are translated into their performance. With a clear penchant for storytelling and crafting vivid stories to accompany their music, Vulvodynia introduced us to Praenuntius, an inter-dimensional deity, on their debut EP Finis Omnium Ignorantiam. Praenuntis Infiniti is the final chapter in this story, ending an impressive six-year saga.
One of the most standout aspects of this album is that the band’s various musical influences can be heard all throughout it. The band describe the album as “technical slamming brutal deathcore”, and although this may seem like a mouthful, it perfectly captures the LP’s essence. Teeming with inspiration from wildly distinct genres and artists, tracks such as ‘Banquet Of Enigmatic Horrors, Pt. 1: Terror’ are reminiscent of Job For A Cowboy’s crushing Demonocracy record, with the death metal influence shining brightly in the hook; ‘A Cosmic Betrayal’ rouses a feeling evocative of Gojira, thanks to the groove and the undeniable prog flavours.
Produced by the band themselves, and mixed and mastered by Christian Donaldson, the production on Praenuntis Infiniti is second-to-none, with the record polished to perfection. The low end is perfect and gives this album the ‘heaviness’ that all metalheads crave, whereas the vocals are crisp, front-and-centre as they should be. The guitars cut through the mix with ease and stand out so you can hear the crushing riffs. The bass and drums – two extremely important aspects of this genre – complement each other perfectly, tying together the whole record in a cohesive and compact manner.
Still on the subject of the band’s musical prowess, few guitarists have the technical and creative ability to pull off the work that Lwandile Prusent, Kris Xenopoulos and Luke Haarhoff put in when it comes to the riffs, solos and all-around brilliance. Vocalist Duncan Bentley lives up to his moniker as ‘Full Time Guttural Overlord’ as he delivers a crushing performance throughout the album. The harsh vocals are nailed to a tee, and Bentley manages to deliver them at ungodly speeds.
Aside from the music on Praenuntis Infiniti, Vulvodynia had arguably the year’s best promo campaign at the ready. Combining creativity with the close-knit nature of the global metal scene, the band’s mascot, Bob The Butcher, appeared on a variety of album covers from various bands around the world. The collaborative nature of the album also underscores the camaraderie and brotherhood of the metal scene.
Out on Unique Leader Records, Vulvodynia’s Praenuntius Infiniti is the definitive African metal record of the year. Few bands, regardless of locale, can hold a candle to the “technical slamming brutal deathcore” titans.
Praenuntius Infiniti is out now via Unique Leader
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