It’s been six years since Vanity Kills first appeared with the Chapter 1: Stitches EP, and with this second chapter, Joe Crow and his cohorts have only upped the ante in terms of musicianship, production, and certainly in length. Chapter 2: Enemy marks the band’s first full-length effort, thrusting through the speakers a blend of scorching electronics, pummeling rhythms, and vitriolic alt. metal that is sure to remind many of the heyday of ‘90s coldwave and the more forward-thinking nü-metal. “Welcome to the Shitshow” begins the proceedings with a hearty dose of cyber-metal, the rhythmic force augmented by a melodic chorus whose power is somewhat diminished by slightly off-key vocals; in fact, this applies to the whole of the album, with “Scream” being another prime example as the vocal layers come off a little ugly, but against a rather striking chorus that probably sounds far better on a live stage than in one’s headphones. On the other hand, when Crow sticks to the shrill screaming and throaty growls, it comes off more than a little overbearing, especially on “Hangman’s Joke,” on which they undermine what is easily the best song on the album thanks to a rather excellent buildup of atmosphere and aggression, the synth and guitar layers along with harmonized vocables in lieu of synth pads adding a welcome sense of eeriness. The same praise can be heaped upon “Loaded Gun” as Nothing Valentine’s layered performance add a strangely atonal yet somehow still melodic quality that is both acerbic and enticing, while the two-part “Alone” present a haunted ambience like one might expect from one’s childhood nightmares thanks to menacing percussion and creeping vocal lines. Other songs like “This Is Gonna Hurt,” “Her Mask,” and “Heresy” immediately resonate with swaggering synths that belong in a ‘90s rave a la Lords of Acid or a Mortal Kombat deathmatch, the latter track’s corroded guitar tones and hellish synth leads as the chorus erupts into a sudden burst of melodic despair. Musically, Vanity Kills is sure to draw comparisons to the hybrid stylings of DOPE, Crossbreed, and perhaps even Blue Stahli, but with a searing and caustic production edge that reminds this writer of BILE – nothing on Chapter 2: Enemy is too clean and the imperfections seem a deliberate attempt to keep the edginess and prevent the sterility of excess polish. Still, some songs feel as though they are running longer than they should, but this is perhaps more due to the fact that even the verses feel climactic, which keeps things from reaching an apex of emotive release.