In the past few months, we’ve presented you quite a few bands that use vocals in an interesting and non-genre typical way. Chief among those was Moontooth, with their blend of blues vocals and progressive metal. King Goat is another one we’d like to especially mention as well, overlaying unique, clean vocals over progressive doom. Now, we can add another band to this roster and lo and behold, they’re also relatively unknown and small. Here’s where we’d usually go on a tangent about how innovation breeds in the outside of any musical scene but we’s spare you; you already know the drill.
Visions are a progressive metalcore band in their instrumentation through and through: catch riffs inlaid with technical lead, interesting drum and bass roles and all the emotional impact you’d expect. However, their vocals are slightly different on the clean end, composed more for catchiness than sheer aggression, painting the album in a different shade. However, where the above bands integrated the idea beautifully into their own original, instrumental ideas, here those vocals are often a substitute for something completely exciting from the rest of the band. This makes Shake the Earth a good album but one with plenty of wasted potential, potential which bubbles beneath the surface and never really erupts properly.
From the beginning moments, you can hear the interesting vocal approach. “Wet Bandits” contains two, distinct vocal timbres: on the opening verse, they’re possessed by a rich and honey-like quality which reminds us of the heyday of Chris Cornell and other, alt-rock ilk. On the chorus though, sparked by the faster guitars, they take on a pop punk tenacity and aggression. The screams work pretty well later on in the track but those are more regular, Misery Signals blended with more contemporary melodic metalcore. Other points throughout the album utilize this tension and infuse it with a bit more hardcore, “clean” screaming. Of particular interest is “It’s Only A Time”, perhaps the strongest track on the album. Here, the vocals really soar, blending harsh screams with singing more akin to Mike Semesky.
The balance works really well on that track because the instruments are also fantastic. On “It’s Only A Time”, the guitar leads contain plenty of interesting ideas, interacting with multiple leads and riffs. The drums also perform admirably, juggling the classical roles of drums in progressive/melodic metalcore: on one hand, they need to provide adrenaline and forward momentum. On the other, they need to provide interesting fills and an overall “scattered” structure to keep up with the more intricate progressions on the track. They do this damn well, lending the track its own, impressive cohesion. However, the bass is by far the highlight of this track. It operates relatively quietly in the background, moving back and forth from sticking with the rhythm guitars and improvising its own little touches on where the track is going. It works especially well with the clean, soaring vocals, providing a contrast to them.
And herein lies the rub. “It’s Only A Time” is the high water mark to which the rest of the album will aspire but never quite reach. The rest of it is good, to all ears: the riffs continue to be emotional and the drum/bass roles we touched upon above are maintained. But not exceeded, not elaborated upon. The rest of the album is more of the same, relying on the vocals to inject the required variety. This creates an all too familiar phenomenon: the first listen to this album is exciting, invigorating and thrilling. However, further listenings wear out the sheen of innovation on the vocals and leave the album with a bit of missing energy. To be sure, there are still some great moments on here, even beyond the track we lauded above. “These Days” for example, with its slowly escalating vocals, is an amazingly moving track and can restore the brightness of initial impressions.
However, a lot of the album doesn’t enjoy that resurrection and ultimately falls a bit to the wayside. We would still completely recommend it to fans of melodic/progressive metalcore. If you’re looking for your next fix of emotional vocals that mix soaring cleans and harsh screams, this is a good station for you to find that. It even has moments which rise above the crop of this sub-genre, convincing us that the band are capable of much, much more. At the end of the day, that’s sadly what remains with us: there are so many good ideas here but a lot of them aren’t taken to their logical conclusions and highlight instead of permeating. We remain excitedly anticipate of their next release and the final tuning which their identity and courage as a band seems to require. Until then, Shake the Earth will serve its purpose as a good album which falls slightly short of true glory.
Visions’s Shake the Earth gets…