Wednesday, February 16

Vexillum - The Wandering Notes

The Wandering Notes


For better or for worse, I was absolutely obsessed with finding Vexillum's debut album after I first discovered it (which I did by using the Metal Archive's Discordance, a fantastic tool!). The picturesque album art admittedly appealed to the fantasy reader in me, with its depiction of a rowdy tavern. With drinks being served, band playing, and bar patrons chatting, it was an idyllic and irresistible piece of cover art. After not being able to find the album available on hardcopy anywhere, I've bought it digitally from Amazon for the time being (though I now see that it has leaked).


I was surprised to see such an unknown band on the ticket for the recent Rhapsody of Fire/Visions of Atlantis tour in Europe, but figured that this could only bode well. As you might well guess, Vexillum plays a pretty similar style of fast paced, Italian flavored European power metal. I was nodding my head and smiling pretty quickly, since Vexillum follows the oh-so-successful and familiar blueprint that many bands before them have established. Example: “Neverending Quest” begins with a sweeping acoustic intro which bursts into an explosive and dramatically held scream from the vocalist that gradually fades into a coursing run of guitar and drum. Nothing new or experimental here, just the type of power metal that you and I know and love.


What IS novel about The Wandering Notes is, as the title might partially imply, the tendency of the songs to convey motion. The intro and outro of almost every song features footsteps (coming and going from the building before the first track and after the last), music, laughter, and voices. To me, it seems that the band is recreating a visitor's time at the tavern and his movement between tables, experiencing the stories, tales, and music that each bar regular has to offer. Despite not being the most original, I've never heard this concept taken so far as to fill a whole album, and it makes for a fun and interesting listen.


Musically, Vexillum has their stuff in pretty tight order. Dario Valesi has a very high and distinctly Italian voice (minus the powerful accent), but sometimes comes off as yelling a bit rather than singing. This tendency isn't too overpowering, though it might hang some listeners up. There are some catchy choruses floating around the album to be sure; it couldn't be power metal without them. The guitarists are pretty talented and have some really cool riffing going on, which is probably the band's single strongest point. In general, I feel that Vexillum has got a handle on their own style which, when all elements are combined, stands out from most of their contemporaries. In fact, their addition of light symphonic elements, the background noise of the tavern, a couple of guest vocal appearances, and a violin appearance all combine to make this a clever and well-conceived debut. Songs like “Neverending Quest”, “Avalon”, and “The Wood of Chances” remind me of why I love this genre so much, and the younger, less mature attitude of bands like Vexillum becomes almost refreshing rather than irritating and amateur.


There is a clear need for maturity on The Wandering Notes: the vocals could be tightened and improved and the mixing could be a bit more bass-heavy. On the band's next album, they'll have to cut out the gimmick (however effective it may be) and really deliver their own sound, or they won't be contending. However, there's plenty of rocking power metal and adept musicianship here to keep fans of the genre interested. Grab yourself a pint, take a seat, and let the cares of the modern world drift away, if just for a short time.


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The Protagonist's Rating: 7.0 out of 10

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was at their show when they played along with Vision and Rhapsody. And they played helluva better than Vision of Atlantis. The sad part is - you can't buy their album anywhere :/

My opinion 8,5/10