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Melodic death metal is primarily a joke in underground metal circles, but with the recent resurgence of both classic heavy and death metal we may see more bands like Vex, that actually live up to its name. Avoiding the "Painkiller with harsh vocals" syndrome that has stillborn the majority of the sub-genre, they use the elongated tremolo lead-harmonies of acts such as classic Dissection and Eucharist as the meat of their songs. Like on their excellent 2010 debut, Thanatopsis, meatier chords help to stabilize these elegant streams of distinctly Scandinavian melody, but they've expanded their armory, using a wider range of techniques for a subsequently more expansive compositional approach. Wistful and ghost-like lead forays in a semi-Primordial-esque folk style, floatier and slightly jazz- influenced drumming, progressive rock style technical sections, and even clean vocals appear.
Whereas most bands however simply dress up dull or stylistically confused music in as many cosmetics to hide artistic deficiency, Vex stomp the competition through an acute sense of knowing each one strategically within the greater over-arching thematic structure of a song, whether to modulate motion or emphasize particularly evocative climaxes within their lush compositions. Songs have less linear structure than on the debut. Sections of soaring power transition into recursive divergences from a central theme, re-contextualizing ideas before their explosive rebirth. This gives the music a very sentimental feel as it alternates between raw exultation and careful moderation, but it's the sentiments one would feel if, say, crossing a vast region of untouched wilderness rather than the wishy-washy feebleness of the "indie metal" movement.
Its only weakness is perhaps the "cleanly raw" production with its incredibly loud drumming, somewhat gritted guitar work, and thick bass. If you can learn to look past or enjoy it, this is both a band genuinely maturing and a new voice for a mostly dead style.
I prefer some mystery in my metal; music is always more compelling when its lineage is not immediately obvious. On their sophomore release, Vex inject strands of traditional metal minutiae into the desolation of extremity, constructing an enigma of limitless vision. Memorious traverses planes of phantasmagorical death, pulling pieces of Primordial’s puzzle and adjoining them to the boundless reverie of bands like Fen, Stargazer, or Misery’s Omen. A commanding and charismatic vocal performance ensures total triumph; Vex never once live up to their name.
Memorious metes out some of the same beguiling, baroque intricacy that marked Obsequaie’s tremendous debut. Gorgeous riffs flow effortlessly into composition vortices and victorious vapor trails. Exceptional solos, segues, and accents wield melody with razor-edged precision. You might say Vex employ “folk” elements, but I despise the term’s ubiquity; Memorious belies any sense of time, place, or cultural reference (the band are, incidentally, from Texas).
These songs are built upon vast dynamics and varying rhythm, rolling along on waves of exemplary drumming. Clean guitars are broken out to stomp in fireside circles, forming the base for whirling astral excursions.
A tremendous amount of thought has gone into the lyrics and conceptual carapace. Esoteric missives on doubt, determination, desolation, and dejection are conveyed via stately growls. Clean vocals make brief and striking appearances in a voice recalling David Gold or perhaps a young Jonas Renske.
Memorious is an immensely satisfying experience; I expect it to remain so throughout the year. I’m reminded of the glorious groundless artifice of middle-era Enslaved (there’s more than a little Mardraum in this music). Vex offer a fresh perspective on our metal ancestry and its continued relevance; don’t miss out on genuine progress.
Originally published here.