Path IV: another hard-hitting journey on bicycling black metal’s wheel of fortune

Cracked Vessel, Path IV, self-released cassette (21 November 2014)

One of the joys of finding self-released tapes is the creativity and improvisation forced by circumstances of limited money and resources. In the case of US cycling-crazy BM band Cracked Vessel, that means sharing space with another unnamed act on a cassette encased in handmade paper packaging and bound with an obi-like paper sash. Quite ingenious! So be warned, Cracked Vessel’s entire demo “Path IV” actually takes up just Side A of the tape, the other side being a soundscape piece by two other people.

Cracked Vessel continue to be enthralled by cycling and marathon cycling in particular as a metaphor for life’s journey and the hills and dales that represent the highs and lows on a traveller’s particular wheel of fortune. There’s probably only so much that can be mined out of this concept before we start longing for an unfair advantage and the Tao of Lance Armstrong takes on special appeal. The entire A-side runs for just over 15 minutes but it’s packed with punchy fusion BM hardcore, all screechy vocals, hard-driving percussion and rock-out rhythms, and sharp cutting guitar feedback. Of the four tracks, “Truncated Night of One Thousand Failures” is short and very intense with blocks of shouting voices and pounding tom-toms.

The music increases in intensity and emotion as it continues and by the time we reach the fourth track, some of us may be reeling from the sheer brutal, wearying force of the guitars and drums. The bass in particular has a grinding sound and the other instruments hardly ever let up in piling on yet more solid blocks of sharp-edged tone and energy. Even though the whole recording is short, by the time it’s over you can feel pretty tuckered out.

Overall this is not bad but I wonder if Cracked Vessel are prepared to take their music and concept up a notch and release some longer recordings on disc with a wider range of subject matter. The trio are a tight unit who play with a lot of energy and passion and I think it would be a shame if these guys don’t do something more ambitious with their project.

I feel I should say something about Side B though I’m not sure of the artist Alex French’s connection to Cracked Vessel, not even if a connection does exist: the guy’s music is droning synthesiser sound-art work, very sweeping and absorbing. The only complaint I have is that the cassette format doesn’t suit music of this kind as it needs a clean sound and the hissy ambience of the tape turns it into something almost one-dimensionally flat.

Contact: Cracked Vessel