Reviews Vultress Distance

Vultress

Distance

Don't be fooled by the naïvely inconspicuous visage; Vultress are the real deal, and their debut release Distance has emerged out of nowhere to become one of the most surprisingly proficient progressive albums this year.

Actually, what's most remarkable about Distance is just how unremarkable it is. For an album that leaves an unforgettably positive impression, it's surprising to realize that Vultress are very much a no-frills band, following in the footsteps of other mainline progressive acts à la Spock's Beard and Sun Caged. Vultress definitely fit the description of the typical modern progressive metal act to a T.

You'd be forgiven for thinking the album is instrumental, given that Anthony Capuano's vocals don't kick in for a full five minutes, but when they do, you'll be greeted with that all-too-familiar staple of modern progressive music: the male vocalist with an inexplicably high vocal range and a voice that takes a long time to get used to. While he's not as grating as, say, Geoff Tate or James LaBrie in a live setting, Capuano is definitely up there along with Geddy Lee for vocalists that take a long time to get used to. I don't point it out as an insult; it's just shockingly standard for the genre.

There's also the album structure itself. Distance plays like literally every progressive album ever: it's got the agreeable opening ten minute track, the slightly more challenging development piece, the pop-oriented single, the interlude, the more adventurous tracks that get hidden away in the back of the album, and the fucking epic closing track, in that exact order. Again, this isn't to the album's detriment--it's a good formula that's stuck around because it works--but it's also exactly what we've come to expect from a progressive band we know nothing else about.

So why am I taking the time to point all of this out? Because, head-up-her-ass snob that I am, stuff like that is usually enough for me to dismiss an album up front, usually with a series of adjectives like "predictable" and "unrelenting brain hæmorrhage". More often than not, sticking this close to the playbook is usually a sure sign that a band has nothing original to say and even less that's worthwhile to be heard.

But just because there's nothing radical to their sound doesn't mean that they don't do it really freaking well. Vultress work hard to defy all expectations; especially for a debut from an unsigned band, Distance is flabbergastingly high-quality release. Not only do Vultress prove immediately they can play with the best, but they blow so many bands using the same formula right out of the water that it's hard to imagine the cosmic unfairness that lets bands like Queensrÿche continue to release major-label studio albums in their stead.

No matter what it is that they are doing, be it smooth and jazzy Latin-esque jazzy basslines, or pseudo-orchestral keyboard swells and tension, or low and gritty sonorously vibrating growling, or even huge climaxes of rapid-fire guitar arpeggiation, Vultress do it well. Despite the fact that each piece is so frantically ever-shifting that it's hard to keep pace, nothing ever feels rushed or unaccounted for. Every single moment of the album feels laboriously constructed and performed; there is never a bar that feels like it was played as an afterthought or as filler, nor a passage that feels it hasn't received the attention it deserves.

In fact, it's hard not to get so involved with the music that you get swept up in it, readily singing along to broad and anthemic choruses (though often you won't know exactly what it is that you are singing about). The lyrics exist in this really weird intellectual space where they are perfectly comprehensible, but bugger if you are able to figure out exactly what is being sung about. (Why does he miss two A.M.? Why doesn't the path ever change? We may never know.)

Lyrics aside, pieces like "A Chord from Heaven" and "The Siren Screams" are impeccable constructions of progressive music, displaying Vultress' clear respect for bands like Genesis and King Crimson while still showing their influence from modern bands like The Flower Kings. "The Path" shows off their penchant for writing complex yet catchy pieces much in the style of Rush or Muse. And the freaking enormous closer "At the Edge" shows that they have the endurance to create large pieces that never run out of steam or movement. There is seemingly nothing they can't do.

In fact, the only legitimate complaint I can even think of is Capuano's insistence on adding a breathy aitch sound every time he extends a syllable while changing pitch. But even then, I admit that to nitpick that far into the sound of the album is digging so far that even I would question my own sanity and fairness.

And as if to top the whole package off with an irresistible finish, the superb mixing is thanks to none other than Eyal Amir of Project RnL, one of the most-loved progressive bands that hasn't actually ever released an album. There is just nothing not to like about this album.

Distance was so pleasantly surprising that I can't implore you enough to give it a chance. Vultress have shown that they know progressive music front and back, and this album will please fans of the genre without exception. Distance is a studied accomplishment from a learned band, and to make it even better, it's available for free download through Vultress' Bandcamp. Go patronize this band and help them get off the ground; they deserve it.

Recommended if you like: early Yes, Hourglass, Transatlantic

8.5 / 10Sarah
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8.5 / 10

8.5 / 10

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