By: Dave Allan Guzda
Vermilion | website | facebook | twitter | bandcamp | soundcloud |
Released on February 27, 2015 via ConSouling Agency
When a band’s list of influences include Meshuggah, Miles Davis, Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Opeth, Animals As Leaders and Cloudkicker (to name just a few…!) you might expect the band would create pretty diverse and fastidious music. In this case you would be right! The band is Vermilion and they are from Ghent, Belgium. Sentience is Vermilion’s first full length album and it’s an impressive fusion of many genres of music. Foremost flowing in Vermilion’s musical blood is jazz. The influence of jazz is present throughout Sentience with its unconventional time signatures, incredible improvisational flair and the crisp musicianship. While the influence of jazz is clear in the technical arrangement and execution of the music… Vermilion’s sound is gratuitously steeped in progressive metal. The band’s website perfectly sums their sound in the form of a question: What if Miles Davis composed for Meshuggah?
The album starts (and ends) with the epic instrumental ‘Alien Sun’, which is broken into two parts that bookend the album. ‘Alien Sun Part I’ opens the album showcasing the goods that are plentiful throughout Sentience. Vermilion’s guitarist Timmy Segers radiates energy and emotion with his expressive guitar. Whether it is a mellow prog jangle, jazzy saunter, rocking riff or aggressive chugfest, Segers impresses. His guitar seems to be in perpetual motion with a stunning creative patchwork of sonic tangents. The final few minutes of ‘Alien Sun Pt. I’ are wholly infectious. ‘Alien Sun Pt. II’ continues the metal groove starting with a contagious groove. The two parts of ‘Alien Sun’ combine for close to 20 minutes of instrumental bliss with the journey touching on both loud and soft extremes.
The aforementioned Meshuggah influence is on full display on the killer track ‘Syntax’. The song has an occasional foray into some spacey synth, but it returns to give a combative aural walloping before fading into an unsettling collapse. ‘Uncanny Valley’ is a curious track that creates tension and an unsettling ambiance. It opens with a distinctive percussive clatter then advances into sweeping gusty musical meanderings which glow with warm tones and relaxed pace. The track becomes increasing agitated however ultimately decaying into a slinky ball of turbulence. Vermilion’s material is alive with kinetic resonance.
As I listened to Sentience I was often captivated by the incredible grooves the band slides into seemingly with ease. The remarkable grooves come largely from the effort of drummer Tom Vansteenkiste and bassist Tom Everaert. Everaert’s thick and meaty bass sound is a constant voice and serves as a striking contrast to Segers’ stinging guitar work. Drummer Tom Vansteenkiste compliments the numerous melodies with well seasoned pace and relevant beats. He forges consummate backdrops for all the instrumentation and shines equally when given the spotlight. There is a lot going on during these dynamic instrumental journeys. The sound is consistently full and rich. This is due to the astute atmospherics created by keyboardist Michael Penson. Whatever the vibe the song requires his synth work adds discernible context and depth. Penson even steals the show with some beautiful keys on ‘Helios Prelude’. Vermilion are formidable musicians creating formidable music.
If you are looking to attain a higher groove “sentience” then this album is just what you need. Sentience is a forceful, highly charismatic exploration of jazz spirited, progressive instrumental metal delivered with clever arrangement and engaging atmospherics. Vermilion’s album is inspiring stuff: elaborate, harmonic, often captivating… remarkable for a début full length release.