As you may well know, I listen to a lot of prog, and I mean a lot, industrial size quantities of delicious, thought provoking music written to explore mankind’s possibilities and really stretch your imagination. One Direction it is not and, as I trawl through this land of progressiveness, I will happen upon The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Ennio Morricone anyone?) and, very occasionally, the downright different, something that stands out enough to catch my ear and make me want to listen to it more. I cannot bestow any higher honour on musicians than to have them inhabiting my Walkman.
Vultress are such a band. I stumbled upon them unintentionally and, not put off by the rather dreary album cover (who else listens to music just because they like an album cover?), decided to give Distance a good old spin!
Paul Uhrina (drums/percussion) used the name Vultress on varying musical projects that were assembled during his High School years in Midwest U.S.A. It was during this time that he hooked up with Jordan Gaboian (guitar) and they expanded on their idea of making thought provoking and challenging music. After a few band members came and went Vultress met Anthony Capuano (vocals/keys) and, after the recruitment of bassist Chucho their recipe for heavy, melodic progressive music was complete. Distance is their 78 minute debut concept album.
Vultress have music influences flying in from all over the progverse, Anthony Capuano has that distinctive voice that, coupled with the staccato guitar, has heavy influences of Coheed and Cambria’s Claudio Sanchez. We are treated to a delightful journey through the highlights of prog rock and metal throughout the album and, whilst it does try too hard in certain areas, it is as innovative as anything I have heard in recent times. Nods are given to prog metal gods Dream Theater and prog rock luminaries such as The Flower Kings and Spock’s Beard. No more is this evident than in album opener I – A Chord From Heaven, in the 5 minutes it takes for the vocals to join in the fun we go everywhere from the bombast of a symphonic rock opening through some traditional prog rock noodling and piano to walloping riffing and 70’s keyboards, the early Dream Theater Influence high in the mix before Anthony’s voice comes in with that high reach that, initially takes some getting used to, never grating but just seems slightly overreaching. The upbeat vibe of the guitar swings in and out of the song, sometimes heavy then light again. Anthony’s plaintive voice one with the rest of the music now and we have a great running guitar theme to take us to the end of the track. A brilliant swirling keyboard and guitar intro thrusts us into II – Returned to Earth, a grabbing riff taking us up and, did I just hear that? Totally unnecessary growly vocals, I just see no need and they don’t fit into the track. Anyway, let’s move on, the thumping guitar and drums and hard edged vocals are like a magical mix of styles, prog rock and metal blending seamlessly. The next part of the song has a definite Dream Theater vibe, similar to any song in the 12 Step Suite before we go off on a lighter tack, almost a journey though dark into light, incredibly catchy guitar and vocals lifting the song out into the brightest of skies before what appears to be a bombastic ending but, wait, it hasn’t finished, slamming the brakes on hard, we take it right back into some ambient music that, unfortunately, goes on for about 90 seconds too long before we have the real ending, a delightful guitar run to close out the track. Are you strapped in and ready for the ride? III – The Path is a rollocking rock n’ roller of a track from the hard edged riff and brash vocals to the rather harmonious chorus that proves that these guys, specifically Anthony, can sing. Throw a classy instrumental section into the melting pot and fly to the end of one of the shorter tracks on the album with the classy chorus and we have belting song. IV – The Siren’s Song (interlude) is just that, a short interlude that gives you a chance to catch your breath but tends not to leave much of mark on your consciousness, nice nonetheless.
V – Reinvocation starts with a Van Halenesque keyboard before powerhouse drumming and heavy riffing kick start us in to the song, wailing guitars adding menace to the track. Guitar is king at the start of this track, technically brilliant guitar at that. We then have what I can only describe as a magical mix of Ben Fold’s Five and Muse, acoustic guitar and piano and high pitched vocals, it shouldn’t work but, in the main, it does! A nice instrumental section in the middle of the track fleshes it out even more. The mood turns a bit darker as we have some more growly vocals set over hard and heavy guitar, this time it does actually work, even for me. There is then a lighter turn to the song, the ending delightfully worked and we rock up straight at the door of VI – The Siren Screams, my own personal favourite track on this fantastic journey of an album, delightful keys leading into a great riff complete with swirling, hard edged guitar. This track is the most simply constructed on the album, a true prog metal track with crashing guitar and sonorous vocals. It is a straight road in a prog journey of winding lanes and, I will admit, had me singing out loud along with the chorus, the song powering inexorably towards the finish where you do not even get a chance to catch your breath before we fly straight into the last track on the album. At over 24 minutes long VII – At the Edge is a behemoth of a song, what a way to bow out. Another fantastic, magical mystery tour, it fires everything into the crucible of prog and melds it into one seriously good song, all the markers are there but, as usual, Vultress give it their own unmistakeable hint of sorcery, little guitar runs blending with seriously heavy riffs and classic vocals sharing space with the darker, hard edged growling. Lighter moments in the song, including a homage to Coheed and Cambria’s Mother Superior, blend seamlessy with hard edge metal, the ending is a swirling prog heavy masterpiece that any prog gods would be proud to produce.
Daring to be innovative and, in the majority of instances, pulling it off, Distance is a fantastic debut from a band, who, if there is any justice in the world, have a successful future ahead of them.