2016’s EP The Cursed Travails of the Demeter was an enjoyable introduction to Vircolac. The band were notable for crafting old-school death metal that focused on atmosphere and feeling, some often neglected aspects of the style.
Fast forward to 2019, and we now have the band’s first full length effort. Masque contains 36 minutes of material that finds the band balancing their dark, atmospheric side with atavistic brutality and compellingly morbid songwriting. Vircolac’s ability to create music that has such richness of macabre atmosphere and foreboding mood is one of the primary reasons that I rate them highly.
Apart from the atmospheric aspects of their work, Vircolac also know how to write music that’s aggressive and savage. Of course, they are not mutually exclusive states, and the band mix threatening brutality and ominous feeling well across the album.
Masque is well-structured and sequenced, and has an interesting flow. All of the band’s work contains a balance between grim aggression and dark atmosphere, (feeding off each other, rather than being in competition), but over the course of these seven tracks the balance gradually shifts overall from the former to the latter quite effectively. This allows the listener to be taken on a journey through the playing time, without necessarily even realising it.
Although Masque is perfectly enjoyable on a surface level of an old-school death metal album, connoisseurs of the style will recognise that there’s more than just that going on here. Vircolac have a depth to their songs that most death metal bands lack, and they use this asset wisely. Masque is a powerful, enjoyable, and highly satisfying album.