Vice or Virtue
01. The Movement
02. Pariah State
03. Book Of Lies
Vice or Virtue, hailing from Richmond, VA, are debuting their sound with the EP Enlightenment. Actually, that’s not quite right. A more accurate statement would be that they’re re-debuting other bands’ sounds with this first release.
There’s a ton of influence involved with this EP, obvious nods to contemporary progressive metal behemoths like TesseracT, Periphery, and the all-too-often-imitated Meshuggah, combining thick picking patterns segmented by rests with obviously heavy palm mutes and dissonant interjections accompanied by unvarying drums in never-deviating rhythm, clever tom fills excluded. Lying underneath, you can hear the uninspired melodies of keyboards used simply as a an atmospheric device rather than a full instrument as is the norm, basically wasting an opportunity to do something different in a genre that’s become incestuous in sound.
“Uninspired” and “generic” would be two words one could use to classify this EP, as it mostly draws from tropes found in other, already established bands with analogous overtones providing little more than a copycat listening experience. Further still, we find the needlessly enigmatically named “Mr. Person” on vocals singing uncomfortably out of his range and finding flat notes all too often. Similarly problematic, vocal sections with the intention of harmonizing sound terribly off-key, producing little more than a cringing effect instead of eliciting chills of well-constructed voicings. The genre staple screams aren’t anything special, simply being a stark contrast to the provided cleans and not necessarily noteworthy one way or another; throwaway at best.
The music itself can simply be described as less than derivative, never going out of its way to construct a new listening experience in a world full of “me too” bands. If you’re in search of heavy palm mutes and dissonant notations to break the repetition, you will definitely not be left wanting, with David Yerly providing the rhythm guitars and Corey Williams taking the lead in this ordinary adventure. On drums, we have the resourceful Dan Gibbes, who seems a more than competent drummer, but is heavily underutilized. The real gem in all this, however, is bassist John Miklosovic, going out of his way to perform above and beyond a lot of others in the genre and actually being heard instead of readily being mixed out in favor of having the guitars and vocals be the stars of the show.
There are moments of brilliance, however. For example, at about the 3-minute mark in ‘Resource’, there’s a bit where everything comes together in a sort of symphonic homage with a beautiful wall of sound, quickly ruined by a misplaced “djent” section which feels shoehorned in for the sake of a transition, which is then quickly succeeded by pick scrape leading into a straight shot of chugs where everything comes together—the keyboards come to the forefront in a pleasing melody accompanying the vocals, the guitar drops out to offer a straight rhythm alongside the bass and drums, simply offering elegant straight sixteenths. This next part is the kicker, though, because the song forgoes its metal intention with a bluesy progressive solo to take us to the end of the track, allowing both the guitar and bass talents to shine. This bit is reminiscent of Opeth‘s lead sections, but forgoes the surrounding twelve minutes of redundant riffs.
Furthermore, at about the halfway mark of ‘Immokalee’, the band takes a more subtle approach, dropping the entire idea of being a ridiculous “djent” band and defying the repetitive sound, allowing the bass to shine before the guitars swell in to tastefully take the proverbial stage. Rhythm guitar is nothing out of the ordinary with crunchy fifths as a groundwork, but the lead guitar takes an out-of-genre approach with a heavily-delayed, high voicing evocative of many tried-and-true post-rock techniques before fading into an unnecessarily long ending of over-produced keyboard wankery.
This EP isn’t bad, but it’s just another example of over-saturation of a sound—progressive metal with heavy palm mutes, clean and harsh vocals singing about God-knows-what (feelings or space or something), both consistently trading traditionally in peaks and valleys of sonic aggression. And despite the oscillation, it’s simply too identical to other bands already doing the same thing. It’s perfect for fans of the type, though, so don’t be turned off to these fine djentlemen.
Vice or Virtue succeeds when they’re exploring areas outside of their intended purpose. There’s a lot of material to work with and a great deal of talent involved, and none of it should be wasted trying to be another TesseracT or Periphery.