Layering one’s music is, fundamentally, a balancing act. Especially now that technology has developed to the point that a laptop carrying a backing track can be comfortably carried on stage and their operation is simple enough for even drummers to handle, almost nothing is off the table. However, the temptation to continually add strings, synths, bells, whistles and foghorns well past the point where the track in question has reached saturation point can be hard to resist.
Salt Lake City five-piece Visitors, however, have taken a more analog approach to layering, featuring three guitarists in their line-up. Like the great and not-necessarily-late Isis, their notional third guitarist, Ian Hilton, also divides his time between guitar and synths, opening up yet more tonal opportunities for their expansive sound within this more disciplined environment. After releasing a couple of EPs, they are now letting themselves range more freely over their debut full-length, Crest.
Crest kicks off with lead single “Pollyanna”, premiered here last month and, like all lead singles really should, it serves as a neat introduction to the band in microcosm. Combining a relatively stompy chorus with more delicate verses, it is a pleasing slice of progressive and melodic alternative-metal. Covering similar territory to rising British progsters Sumer (who also operate with a three-guitar configuration), it’s possible to pick out elements of Deftones, Karnivool, Fair to Midland and – especially in Iam Cooperstein’s emotive vocals – Jane’s Addiction in their sound.
Visitors have largely front-loaded Crest with its heavier tracks, so that a relatively explosive opening half then gives way to the quieter numbers. “Sea of Limbs” and “Apoplexia” are spiky and angular affairs reminiscent of The Safety Fire, whilst both “Styrofoam Needles” and “Fugue” are more spacious, dynamic affairs, drawing a little more from post-metal territory. Crest then takes a further gear-shift down for the relaxed and dreamy pairing of “Monochopsis” and “Stations” before drawing all of these strands together in the final “In Part, Entrained” and “In Whole, Encased”, reaching a climactic peak with an anthemic gang-vocal, before melting away into reverb-drenched guitars and ethereal female vocals.
This precise track-listing appears to be the product of some careful consideration. The same could equally be said for both the songwriting and the musicianship displayed on Crest, with the latter comfortably meeting the wide-ranging demands of the former. Visitors have elegantly side-stepped the dangers of over-layering by diligently keeping each individual part quite straightforward, then allowing the complexity and depth to build from their interplay with each other. It’s worth listening on headphones to properly appreciate it.
Clearly equally at home making gentle, delicate, soothing sounds as going seven shades of batshit, In Crest, Visitors have delivered a thoroughly engaging, enjoyable and varied listen. Fans of the alternative end of the progressive metal spectrum may well be in for a pleasant surprise.