Hailing from the US, Vexes are clearly not afraid to experiment with genre fusion, rhythm and song structure. Their new album, Ancient Geometry, combines groove elements into progressive rock and metal sounds. Playing with structure, tone and style, there doesn’t appear to be any standard time signatures in sight.
Helion opens the album with explosive guitars. The high energy of this track combined with the depth of the instrumentation creates a dramatic sound. The low tones, minor chords and dissonant leads produce a dark atmosphere which manifests throughout the album in various forms. Charlie Berezansky’s use of clean and harsh vocals alter the mood of the track. His cleans add a sense of the gothic and enhance the dark elements of the track. The harsh vocal sections blend with the guitar tones to create a dense, heavy sound really enhancing the depth of the instrumentation. The dynamics of the album change with Lift. The chorus of this track has a pop-influence feel. This appears to mainly derive from the melody line which the vocals follow, and the chord progressions have an uplifting feel to them. The rest of the track maintains the darker sound introduced in Helion. The diversity and change in dynamics, both within and across the tracks, creates a more interesting sound. It does feel that Lift could have been taken further with instrumental experimentation to create something that would be more memorable.
Plasticine is a good example of Vexes’s experimentation with time signatures. The powerful chords of the instrumentation make the non-standard time signature clear whilst the vocal line floats above. This stark contrast between the two gives a pleasantly disjointed effect. It keeps the listener active as the rhythm doesn’t operate in a common or expected manner. The vocal style of this track feels very reminiscent of the Deftones’s Change (In The House Of Flies). The slightly more minimalist style of this track, in comparison to others on the album, allows the vocals to take more of a central position. No Color takes an unexpected turn with a rap section. The rest of the track is pretty generic in terms of the chord progressions, guitar tone and vocal style. The rap section brings it back into the experimental realm of Ancient Geometry. The emotional vocal sections, almost spoken-word in style, add a further dimension to the track. Similarly to Plasticine, the instrumentation takes a slight step back and the inclusion of varying vocal styles adds interest. The synth outro once again takes the track in a very different direction. Although completely unrelated to the rest of the track, it fits well. Something unusual, such as this outro, is needed here as the guitar tone and overall sound of the track is, unfortunately, beginning to feel repetitive.
Lush brings the guitar tones to the main focus, opening with a good amount of screaming feedback. The sudden calm to distorted guitar and vocals for the verse works nicely, enhancing the dynamics of the track. The percussion is incredibly energetic with powerful fills. The drums fit particularly well in the mix in this track. The verse, especially, sees the drum tones coming through clearly. The clean and harsh vocal styles are balanced well, with the harsh being used in the lead up to the bridge it effectively develops this part of the track. The serene, Eastern influenced instrumental and vocal melodies of Meridian Response break up the heavy distortion. It is a good filler section, but it is a shame that a filler is all it is. This sound has great experimental promise and could have been further developed to create a very unique track. Ancient Geometry has a strong emotional feel with a slower tempo which is well accented by the percussion. The longer drawn out chords in the instrumentation enhance the atmosphere of the track. The calmer verses also develop the dynamics of the track. Of course, heavy elements soon seep into the bridge section. Ending with an outro inspired by tribal drums rhythms and a melody which sounds as if it may be performed on a kalimba, this track is unusual; for the title track of the album, Vexes could have taken it much further.
Ancient Geometry is a strong album which clearly displays Vexes’s distinctive sound. Their experimentation is interesting and dynamic however, they don’t always go far enough. They can push the boundaries much further and create something truly unusual. They are clearly competent musicians with a keen ear for composing with non-standard timing and rhythm patterns in mind. It will be great to see where they progress from here.
For fans of: Deftones, Black Peaks, Will Haven
Words by Holly Royle
‘Ancient Geometry’ by Vexes is released on 21st June on Silent Cult Records.