Sometimes you get a CD to review with an unexpected and surprising content. That's the case with the debut album Distance by a young American band called Vultress, formed at a high school in Indiana. Founder member and drummer Paul Uhrina first teamed up with guitarist Jordan Gaboin and after a while singer and keyboardist Anthony Capuano came to join them. But only when bass player Chucho joined the band, the musical direction was definitely set: powerful progressive rock and metal with a lot of melody created with musicianship.
For a first and independent release Distance contains a mature sound. During the album's opener A Chord From Heaven, you could get the impression that Vultress is an instrumental band, but this more than nine minutes lasting piece is only the beginning of a long showcase of strong song writing and impressive performing. The long intro immediately grabbed me; these musicians know how to draw one's attention and better still, they manage to get me at the edge of my seat waiting for what will happen next. Halfway the song Capuano's rather high-pitched voice emerges, moving the band's music in the direction of Ice Age, a fairly unknown and highly underrated band, but also echoes of Queensr˙che can be heard. At some points I even heard some Journey influences. When this piece segues into Returned To Earth, the music sounds well-balanced. The keyboards, guitar and the rhythm section sound perfectly together, while the range of singing easily goes from the higher tones to a kind of deep grunts.
You have to get used to Capuano's way of singing, but the first time I heard Geddy Lee (Rush), I wasn't quite convinced of his vocal abilities either, so I guess that's just a state of mind. Halfway Returned To Earth, Capuano's voice sounds a bit like that of James Hetfield (Metallica). There's a lot going on during this outstanding thirteen-minute composition. Capuano plays great melodies on the keyboards on top of a strong guitar line which sounds great. Another strong element of the album is its diversity; only this sole composition contains numerous atmospheres and moods. On The Path, a powerful guitar sound can be heard with a light retro touch combined with trashy and modern influences. There's so much that needs your attention! Listen for instance to the nice guitar sounds. At this point I heard some resemblance with the debut album of another quite unknown band, namely 7 Months. A great guitar solo goes from a kind of Mediterranean sound to heavier parts and then the bass takes over. I felt really good after listening to this marvellous piece of music!
All songs segue from one into the other; the album gently continues with a short keyboard and vocal based composition which highlights both Anthony Capuano's vocal and piano playing abilities. Reinvocation is another ten-minute composition wherein the guitars and a steady rhythm section provide the basis for another fine piece; this time the keyboards sound a bit modest to give room to Jordan Gaboin's guitar play. When the vocal parts join in, I even heard influences from musical and opera in the already complex music of Vultress. Halfway a piano dominates the song and in combination with the guitar, it flows to an ultimate high, melodic and powerful, though slightly bombastic end. These musicians aren't afraid to challenge a band like Dream Theater when it comes to ingenuity or complex structures. While listening to The Siren Screams with my eyes closed, I focussed on the individual instruments. By doing so, I found out that the ingenious drum patterns truly stand out just as the majestic guitar parts. These are two strong elements of the band, but let's not forget the complexity of the piano and keyboards and the bass lines that keep it all together.
At The Edge, the final song with a playing time of almost twenty-five minutes, contains many mood-changing vocals, guitars shifting from laid-back to eighties riffs and complicated keyboard patterns. The middle-section has soft but impressive bass lines and the vocals tend to alternative music. The jazzy echoes get enhanced by the electric piano part. When this piece continues a number of solos pass by: first a guitar solo that combines emotion with craftsmanship, then a jazzy piano solo and a bass solo almost hidden underneath layers of other sounds. Outstanding guitar play takes this long piece to an acoustic end.
I'm very happy that this promo ended up in my mail box, because to me this is one of the finest recordings ever of a debuting band. I guess everything falls in place and if you like impressive progressive music using a lot of different influences you certainly need to give this album a try. When you look at the band's pictures, you'll notice that these musicians are really young; a promising band for future releases! For now Distance is the best debut album in the genre so far, but being an aficionado of instrumental music, I would like to hear a full instrumental album by Vultress!
***** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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