VATICAN: “Ultra” (Album Review)

The Savannah-based hardcore band, Vatican (Mike Sugars- vocals, Logan MadeTom Lovejoy- guitar, Nolan Mobley-guitar, Jonathan Mackey-bass, and Josian Soto-Ramos- drums) formed in 2012 under the name Coastlines, and three years later, renamed themselves as Vatican.  Their debut album, “Sole Impulse” was a solid first effort, but this quintet has outdone themselves with this latest release. On June 17, they will unleash their sophomore release, “Ultra” through UNFD.  

I’m typically not a big fan of the true hardcore albums- they all sound similar to me, but when a band infuses elements of other genres as well as unique sound effects, it can really grab me. Such is the case with “Ultra.” The album starts out with “Slipstream Annihilation,” a chaotic onslaught of riffs and Mike Sugar’s unbelievable raw vocals. It is fast-paced and you will be able to hear the band’s maturity and intensity from this first track.  “I Am Above” also features a cacophony of heavy riffs and drumming that set the bar high for the rest of the album to live up to.

The song, “Reverence,” was released as a single on April 20, 2022.  This song features some eerie clean vocals but is brutal nonetheless. The chorus is catchy and the riffs are superb. Mike Sugars shares some insight about the song’s lyrics. “The song is about people with irresponsible amounts of wealth and the damage they cause to the vast majority of regular people. We don’t need ’em.”  The song ends with a lingering piano outro. Vatican’s latest single, “[Ultragold],” features some of the most intense riffs on the record as well as showcasing a thundering assault of Soto-Ramos’ drumming. “Where the Heaven’s Collide” is quite different. It starts out with clean vocals and overall, a less-angry feel, but soon transitions to a heavy, atmospheric sound. There are no unclean vocal parts until ⅔ of the way in, and then Sugars makes up for his loss of time at the microphone. This song adds the dynamic needed in the first third of the record. 

“Don’t speak,” an instrumental track, transitions into the belly of the album. The band released their first single, “Decemeta,” last fall.  I absolutely love the opening guitar riff and the official music video pays homage to the band’s love for gaming. “Uncreated Waste” thrusts ferocious growls front and center, and the breakdown at the end of the song is one of the highlights of the album. “Damage” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. The song builds with heavy toms and taunting vocals eventually bursting with an aggressive outro. “By Your Love” is a groovy song that has a lot of dynamic sounds. It’s very unique for an album in this genre!

“Miracle of the Moon” is another favorite of mine- it plays around with different tempos and is very unpredictable at the first listen. The bass-heavy “Mirror Dream” also has some of the fastest licks on the album and “N.U.M.B. (Neutralize Under Maternal Bond)” is a distinct track that features a woman’s speech behind a mechanical voice. The album ends with “Did You Ever Notice I Was Gone.”  This final song is great- varied with a beautiful piano intro, poppy rhythms, and merciless ending. Vatican has created a remarkable second album that you must check out. “Ultra” is both diverse and ruthless.