AS SUPERGROUPS GO, the members of VHÖL aren't exactly household names. Which is good, because the West Coast metal quartet isn't interested in being a supergroup.
"We've really tried to keep out of that whole thing and [the idea that] these people are coming together and making this one-off record," drummer Aesop Dekker says in a recent telephone interview. "It's a band. We're rehearsing and we're constantly writing and we're gonna make records until none of us want to do it anymore.
"It's not like a one-off or a side project," Dekker continues, "but VHÖL definitely has to take a backburner to bands that we've all been working on longer and have more of a commitment to. Bands that, in some strange way, pay the bills."
Let's get this out of the way: VHÖL is made up of Dekker, guitarist John Cobbett, bassist Sigrid Sheie, and vocalist Mike Scheidt, each a veteran presence in the metal scene. Dekker also drums in Worm Ouroboros and Portland dark-metal lords Agalloch, and he kept time for the late, great black-metal band Ludicra. Cobbett and Sheie both play in Hammers of Misfortune; Cobbett is also ex-Ludicra. Scheidt is the frontman of Eugene-based doom titans YOB.
VHÖL's parts are so impressive, it's hard to imagine that its whole could measure up. But that didn't stop metal geeks from hotly anticipating the band's self-titled debut, released by Profound Lore Records in April. "I think people had expectations and we knew they couldn't really guess what it was going to sound like," Dekker says. "In a sense, John and I didn't know."
Dekker and Cobbett started VHÖL out of a desire to continue making music together after the dissolution of Ludicra. The initial plan was to make one record and call it good—no touring, no pressure of a follow-up.
"We didn't talk too much about what we wanted it to sound like," Dekker says. "We were more interested in playing really fast than being purely heavy. I think maybe the only thing we ever really talked about was that we wanted to be really fast [and] angular."
Fast is one word for the album. Ferocious is another. VHÖL is a bracing collection of songs that owe as much to old-school hardcore, thrash, and D-beat as any strain of metal the band's members have practiced elsewhere. It's a throwback to an early '80s punk aesthetic powered by 21st-century metal chops. You can practically hear VHÖL melting the crust and grime off the walls.
And while the band itself is brutally tight, Scheidt—who's "one of the best singers in metal," Dekker says—might be the center of this circle pit. His vocals are astounding, rising from burly, blackened growl to classic metal falsetto with ease.
Dekker reiterates that VHÖL will always take a backseat to its members' other bands, but he acknowledges the quartet is already deep into writing its second album. "When John was like, 'Let's make a record and call it quits,' I think in the back of our mind we knew that wasn't really in our nature to do that," says Dekker. "We've always been really careful not to shove a square peg into a round hole, and to just let things happen.
"It's a great way to work," he adds. "It's a little more fluid and it can kind of just be poured into the cracks."