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Vader – Litany

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Years of hard work and extensive touring paid off for Vader in the early 2000s as they were offered a recording contract by Metal Blade, the label that released the early records of Slayer, one of the band’s most audible inspirations. After proving to be the most reliable underground force with their preceding three albums, Polish combo Vader was offered the luxury of a real recording budget and increased visibility due to Metal Blade’s stronger promotional branch. This resulted in three full lengths, and a number of EPs. “Litany” is the first to have a recording budget worth mentioning, and as such it was the first truly professional sounding product the band was able to put on the market.

One of the major ailments of the band’s previous records are corrected here as “Litany” has the most beefed up and professional production Vader had ever experienced. This record possesses a level of crunch, bass-heaviness and clarity that immediately makes one forget that this was only the band’s fourth album. Vader was rising out of the underground, and this was their first steppingstone into the mainstream metal consciousness. Together with the increased production values also comes a more hook-oriented approach to the songwriting. Despite its artificially loud production “Litany” is actually far simpler and less complex compared to this band’s earlier output. The band still plays incredibly fast and groovy with tons of screaming solos, but the songs no longer twist and turn with the same level of density as they did before. In a similar fashion the somewhat shoddy artwork, design and lay-out have improved immensely compared to “Black To the Blind”, “De Profundis” and “The Ultimate Incantation”. In all one could say that with “Litany” Vader had finally reached the status of being a professional recording - and touring band at this point in their already prolific career.

Complaints were filed that the previous album sounded too bare bones, and it only takes the opening kickdrum salvo of ‘Wings’ to ensure that this isn’t the case with this album. In fact you could argue that “Litany” takes things to the other end of the spectrum. The kickdrums (and the drum production in general) here border on techno or industrial territory, as they are incredibly overbearing and loud. The whole drum production is drenched in a cold, mechanical sound that borders on the artificial yet retains just enough of a human touch as to not go completely sterile and lifeless. All string instruments sound far meatier and concrete compared to earlier efforts, but those were never particularly faulty to begin with. The increased levels of mid range and burly bass tones make this easily the most bottom-end heavy Vader release thus far. All Vader albums to follow would more or less take this as a template in terms of production and work around whatever new technology was available at the time to enhance it further. Thankfully none of Vader’s intensity or spirit was lost due to the pristine production values. Both Wiwczarek and Raczkowski deliver fireworks at their instruments with their usual amount of enthusiasm, gusto and fire. It is incredible that just two people could produce an album with this level of sheer professionalism, passion and spirit.

“Litany” is the second Vader release to feature artwork by Polish digital artist Jacek Wiśniewski, and this was probably the release that brought his work to the attention of bands and fans on a wider scale than ever before. Much like rising stars Behemoth and Nile were doing at the time Vader also provides liner notes detailing the meaning of each of the songs. It would be the last recording to feature long-time bass guitarist Leszek ‘Shambo’ Rakowski. It was at this juncture that Vader crossed the Atlantic and took on establishing a footing on American soil. Although they would return to the New World at regular intervals Europe was still their mainbase of operations. Vader already had played Japan by this point, but now their live assault would truly become global in scope. The band’s most notable undertakings on the live front in support of this album arguably being the “Death Across America” tour and the “No Mercy” tour in Europe. “Litany” was the band’s breakthrough record, even though it came at the expense of somewhat simplifying its style and making it accessible as a whole. It retained the same visceral intensity and wall-to-wall aggression that made the band rightly famous. It is the first of three albums that would see the band opt for this slight change in sound, but it paid off dividents in the long run. Thanks to these albums many would cling to Vader. Piotr ‘Peter’ Wiwczarek would also busy himself with producing the debut album “Winds Of Creation” by country mates Decapitated, who were taking the scene by storm.

Pawel Frelik wrote all the lyrics once again, except ‘Cold Demons’ and ‘Forwards to Die!!!’ were written by Wiwczarek whereas the lyrics for re-recorded early classic ‘The Final Massacre’ were written by Pawel Wasilewski. A promotional video was shot for ‘Cold Demons’, but it wouldn’t be until the next album “Revelations” ere that Vader had promo videos worth seeing. The album clocks in just over thirty minutes making it a minute or two longer than the preceding “Black To the Blind”. While making one’s music more readily accessible to a wider audience is usually equated to selling out, Vader made sensible (and understandable) compromises for its new employer. It isn’t as if Vader suddenly made 180° stylistic turnabout, hardly so. Metal Blade - for all the good things you can say about them in terms of distribution, marketing and promotion – signs bands who they know will promote themselves and push the projected units. Vader understood this, and wrote albums during their tenure with them that fit this mentality and business plan. It could be argued that Vader albums from this point onward become interchangeable (which would be true), but they were merely looking out for their business interests. Still they did it more admirably than most, and more subtly than you’d usually expect from a metal band. Vader never lost their edge, soul or integrity.

Recorded at Red Studio in Gdańsk, Poland with producer Adam Toczko “Litany” was the heaviest, cleanest and arguably, loudest Vader album up to that point. As per usual it was the duo of Piotr ‘Peter’ Wiwczarek and Krzysztof ‘Doc’ Raczkowski (drums) who laid down all instruments in the studio. Piotr ‘Peter’ Wiwczarek shared production duties once again in what had now become the established practice for Vader. It also was their most professional looking as they had improved in leaps and bounds on the visual front. Being the first in the band’s second, more readily accessible era “Litany” is brief but enjoyable foray into percussive death/thrash metal that is high on energy and spirit while staying groovy and memorable through out. It isn’t the best Vader album, but it is custodian to a number of live staples. As one of the first truly easy to find Vader albums, it is a more than commendable debut for its new label imprint. From this point on Vader locked in its songwriting and would produce efforts that would make lesser bands blush, all while performing numerous shows on both continents – like they did before, but now with increased visibility and more opportunities for all involved.