I try to take suggestions from friends pretty seriously, if I trust that person’s tastes, and so when I recently was prodded on Facebook by someone to dive head first into a band’s new record, I knew I had to take heed. I won’t name the person (I try not to be a name dropper), but we certainly will get into the band at the heart of the matter, that being Vex.
I knew I had the Vex album in my inbox, so it being a Friday night and there being beer at my disposal, it seemed like as good a time as any to download the promo for “Memorious,” the band’s second album for excellently named Horror Pain Gore Death Productions, and their follow-up to 2010 debut “Thanatopsis.” I listened to the band’s debut when it came out, and I have it on my computer, but what happens often times when you’re a writer and have hundreds of promos at your disposal is things get lost in the mix. It happens all the time. It probably seems like a great luxury to have so much new music at your disposal, and it is, but it also is nearly impossible to keep track of all of it, resulting in a band such as Vex flying under my radar.
But having a chance to revisit the band anew, I approached Vex with great curiosity and a peaked interest after reading through the band’s bio materials. The Texas-based band plays an amalgamation of death metal, prog, and thrash, and while that doesn’t seem like any new stew or anything, I’m not sure many other bands pull off such a grandiose sound as well as these guys do. Basically, the recommendation I was given to seek out Vex I pass onto all of you, especially for fans of bands such as Cormorant, early Iron Maiden, Primordial, early-era Amon Amarth and groups of that ilk. The songwriting is super sharp, the band’s playing is incredibly advanced, and their storytelling should keep you tuned in from beginning to end. Also, if you’re turned off by the prog-death tag, don’t be. It’s not loopy and dorky at all. There simply is a level of playing that delves into that territory, but it never comes off as pretentious and only is sprinkled in here and there when the drama needs an added boost.
The band is comprised of vocalist Joe Jackson (not the guy with the keyboards), guitarists Michael Day and Ciaran McCloskey, bassist William Edgar, and drummer Eoghan McCloskey, and Vex formed way back in 1998, and issued their initial demo “Overview” a year later. They put out an EP in 2002, another demo in 2005, and eventually worked on a split with thrashers Divine Eve in 2010, before Vex’s debut album “Thanatopsis” landed. In a way, they’re just now gaining their stride and coming into their own, despite their years together, and “Memorious” is hands down their best work yet.
“Terra Soar,” the opening track on the record, gives you a pretty good indication as to what’s ahead: growly singing, lots of melodic guitar, a body-mashing combo of death and thrash metal, and a glorious, epic feel all around. I know the term melodic death metal is scary, and I get why, but think of Vex as more of a death metal band that has a knack for melody. “Carve My Eyes” has a watery, trickling open before it launches into classic Maiden-style guitar work and more punishing vocals from Jackson. “Astride a Grave” is the first of three instrumentals on the record, and it’s designed to take you into “No Such Thing,” a shaking, speedy, lurching song that contains some of the ugliest moments on the album. There are prog-fueled lead guitar work, heaviness that’s a little understated but still pretty meaty, and an epic quality due to the nature of the song, not its length. It is incredibly impressive. “Spectral Nature” has some cleaner tones, vocals that have a goth ring to them, and eventually an unexpected explosion where things round back to death metal and carnage.
“Away from the Sun” is a woodsy interlude piece that bleeds into the volcanic “Wasteland (How Long Ago…)”, seemingly inspired by the T.S. Elliot poem, as the track is complete with a sample of lines pulled directly from that piece. It’s a pretty dark section of the album, and it also happens to be one of the heaviest musically. “Solace In Sleep” is another interlude, setting a haunted stage for what follows, namely “Those Days Are Gone,” a vicious number that’s like a best-of containing all that Vex do well. The guitars are majestic when need be, gut-wrenching at other times, and Jackson emits both his furious growl and clean croon, proving how flexible a frontman he is. Closer “A Drinking Song” is a bit of an oddball at the end of this thing, with a tempo that doesn’t really lend itself to wild antics, and a personality that doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the album. It’s a good cut; it’s just weird next to the rest of the song.
The Vex recommendation paid off big time as, ever since I downloaded the promo that fateful, brew-filled Friday night, I’ve visited with it regularly. I love how it plays with different styles but never stays with one exclusively, the sense of adventure, and how the music is both well played and emotionally connected. This an impressive records from a band that, from this point forward, is going to remain in my stream of consciousness.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/vexhomepage
To buy the album go here: http://hpgd.comoj.com/store/hpgd057.html
For more on the label, go here: http://hpgd.comoj.com/indexmain.html