Sunday, 18 December 2011
I knew it was a bad idea posting my best-of list before the actual end of the year. There was bound to be something crop up that made me think I should have waited. And this time, that something is Vyrion, with their self-titled debut. I discovered these Aussie progressive black metallers via a review on Angry Metal Guy, and something about them piqued my interest. The wonderful symmetrical logo was what made me pause to read the review, and the promise of progressive black metal with death and doom elements made me go listen.
The sound is truly a strange conglomeration. It's most definitely progressive black metal, but the vocals are a varied mix of black metal screams and hoarse whispers, death metal growls and grunts, and a good amount of clean singing. Quite often within the same song. The music, too, does similar twists and turns, from a driving, brutal blackened prog onslaught to more intricate, even melodic, death riffs. It's like the evil lovechild of Agalloch, Insomnium and Satyricon, which could turn out to be something of a random mish-mash if they weren't careful.
Fortunately it seems that have been careful, because it actually works really well. The songs are all cohesive, unique and distinct. After a brief tinkly-tonkly intro, the first track, Ever Rising Platform, sets your expectations of what this album is about, deftly switching between styles with some great riffs. It gets better as the album progresses, with Mortal Frame getting heavier and heavier, and The Decider being, for me, where it really gets going. Such is the nature of the beast, though, that while it has the heaviest opening riff, it also has a section where it turns to pure prog, with some great clean guitar work before the main riff bursts back in with matching screams.
The album continues apace with Winter Vector, featuring a rather minimalist main riff that turns into high-speed drum work before suddenly turning very soft and creepy in the middle, then bursting back into melodic black metal at the end. Disengage is just a bit strange, chugging number with some almost thrash-like riffs thrown in for good measure and then, suddenly, a soft-rock, clean vocal chorus. Most peculiar, but strike me down if it doesn't work brilliantly.
The thrash is all gone by the time Rendering The Lifeless starts up, and instead a slow, doomy riff takes over. The riffs are all melodic death metal, while the clean and screamed vocals switch and overlay each other in complicated and sometimes mind-bending ways. The Silence starts slow but speeds up significantly and turns into perhaps the most traditional black metal track on the album, despite being heavy with a definitely doom metal bass riff. Of course, this doesn't last and by the end of the track there is a 70s styled prog riff underpinning overlaid death growls and black metal screams.
Penultimate track The Decision brings blastbeats into the mix, more duelling growls and screams and a heavy, driving riff that propels the song into a crazy mix of slow, sombre riffs, high speed death metal and slow, contemplative blackened prog. The album concludes with Sole Remainder, a track that turns everything that went before on its head. Starting with a slow guitar melody and clean vocals reminiscent of Damnation era Opeth, it switches to blackened thrash and back again effortlessly and to a creepy and somewhat unsettling effect.
If the feeling you get from reading this description is that this album is an incoherent jumble of styles, you couldn't be more wrong. The switches between the various styles employed is not abrupt, nor are they at odds with each other. Instead, every change of style fits the song, and when two or more are employed, they complement rather than hideously contrast each other. It is at the same time both heavy and hard-hitting, and soft and melodic. It is a beautiful chimera incorporating the best of many worlds. If you like melodic death, black, blackened folk or progressive metal, there's something for you here. If, like me, you like all of the above, then this is a masterpiece.
This album is available via the band's bandcamp page on a pay-what-you-want basis for downloads, or as a physical CD for $10AUD, which is about £6.42 by my reckoning. It's also available to stream for free. So really, there's absolutely no excuse not to give it a listen and, if you like it, support an up-and-coming band who I hope to hear a lot more from.