Sunday, 12 February 2017

INSTRUMENTAL INTERPRETATIONS PART VIII: Vipassi – “Śūnyatā”

By: Phil Weller


Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 20/01/2017
Label: Season of Mist




A less conservative approach to progressive tinted death metal, they pepper their songs with plenty of other musical flavourings. From the avant garde shredding on ‘Jove’, to the turbo charged, time signature metamorphosis assault of ‘Sum’, each track flaunts its own distinctive character. So if the likes of Animals As Leaders, Death, Obscura and Cynic appeal to you, then prepare for your taste buds to be tantalised.

Śūnyatā” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Gaia
2). Benzaiten
3). Jove
4). Sum
5). Elpis
6). Paradise
7). Samsara

The Review:


“Instrumental music,” this record’s accompanying press release concludes, “traditionally has a harder time in metal as in other genres. All too often, virtuoso musicians have used their talent mainly to stroke already massive egos. Yet bands like Animals As Leaders have demonstrated that ambitious skills and passionate song-writing can be fused into something greater, which appeals far beyond the grudging respect of colleagues.”

Indeed, while Vipassi drag their instrumental music down more deathly, but ultimately bewildering complex hallows reminiscent of Animals As Leaders – who have also featured in this column – that band has been helping people consider the genre of late. The band’s surging popularity is contradictory to what makes the charts, of both mainstream and metallic varieties, and as a result is opening the door of opportunity to bands like Vipassi.  

The band was born from jam sessions in 2009 between guitarist Ben Boyle and members of Australia’s Ne Obliviscaris – drummer Dan Presland, bassist Brendan Brown and guitarist Benjamin Baret. Soon, as the press release goes on to say, they “settled on an instrumental style that captured the openness aimed for to allow any listener to interpret and connect with the material subjectively. Their project represents a desire to explore beauty and darkness in all its shades, through melodic and complex compositions”.

Just like how the bass driven sounds of Obscura are treading on the turf Death once carved out as their own, continuing their legacy in a heavy but imaginative manner, Vipassi too are carrying the torch. A less conservative approach to progressive tinted death metal – and Chuck Schuldiner was anything but conservative – they pepper their songs with plenty of other musical flavourings. From the avant garde shredding on ‘Jove’, to the turbo charged, time signature metamorphosis assault of ‘Sum’, each track flaunts its own distinctive character.

Like Obscura too, the bass is powerfully prevalent. Brendan Brown’s playing refuses to just steady the ship, it can fly off the handle at any conceivable moment, meandering like a lost child in a supermarket, but played with an impressive conviction, grace and musicality belying of its disregard of convention. He is there secret weapon. 

Where a singer may add interest and that all-important record selling earworm, here they don’t so much as compensate for their lack of vocals by shifting time signatures every which way as they do utilise the void therein. Their venomous songs have many twists in their tails; they can pirouette on a knife edge, flip upside or segue from primitive passages to ones of airy, chilling calm. The change comes as sudden, but never feels anything but smooth.

Listen with headphones and these compositions become wholly, terrifyingly immersive. ‘Elpis’ is one such example. Above all an interloping song, something like this belongs more on a film score than it does a death metal album, but its skin crawling aesthetics stand strong; it gives the album a hellish death.

It leads you blindly into the closing track ‘Samsara’ which best merges their thundering metal, with guitars and bass tightly syncopated and resembling the sound of alien warfare, with hypnotic and creepy atmospherics. They weave in and out of the battle, sewing a vast and extravagant canvas.

Something about the music of Animals As Leaders pierces through the threshold from underground music to something more entertaining, rewarding and accessible – even if its complexity is anything but. Vipassi however, don’t come across as a band who can attain such contradictory achievements. But what they do is extremely appealing, so if the likes of Animals As Leaders, Death, Obscura and Cynic appeal to you, then prepare for your taste buds to be tantalised.

Śūnyatā is available here






Band info: bandcamp || facebook

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