Season of Mist/Rocket Australia
Reviewed By Andrew McKaysmith
First up, I must confess that Vipassi occupy a particular genre of metal that I prefer over almost all others - proggy, jazz-infused instrumental metal in the vein of Cynic and Animals as Leaders. That said, it could work against the album as the inevitable comparisons to Traced in Air or last year's AOTY (according this scribe) The Madness of Many stir. So it is refreshing to proclaim that Sunyata is an exceptionally strong release, with plenty of great ideas that should keep the listener occupied for many return spins.
Starting with the album artwork, the sacred geometry of the triangles entwined within circles glazed over a scene of wretched agony, ye-old characters writhe in pain as they are attacked by an unending avalanche of serpents. This provides the listener with a graphic reference to the mania that lies within the recording. If the instrumentation of the guitars and fretless bass are represented by the serpents, then it is the unyielding drumming of Ne Obliviscaris stick basher Dan Presland that is the geometry.
The real hero on Sunyata is bassist Brendan Brown (AKA Cygnus) who is also in Ne Obliviscaris. I believe Brown uses headless 5 string fretless basses, made by Status which is the same company that issues basses to legendary vocalist, songwriter, and slap bass extraordinaire, Mark King from Level 42. This alone speaks volumes about Brown's approach to bass playing.
I read with interest from an interview conducted a few years ago where Brown explained that provided he chose notes that worked within the framework of the root chord (and mode), he could use every note in that scale to produce a melody. Easier said than done, however it is this strategy that Brown deploys to magnificent results on Sunyata. Sure, guitarists Ben Boyle and Benjamin Baret are more than competent and their own playing is structured to ensure they keep out of each other's way, however allowing the bass to occupy such a central plank in the creation of melody is frankly bloody difficult. On Sunyata the three individual string-slingers deserve praise for crafting intricate and thoughtful passages where each musician is given an opportunity to reach for a 'personal best' performance.
As is the case with this genre, the song titles are nominal. I appreciated that the tracks themselves weren't overly long and repetitive, it feels as though the album has been carefully edited to ensure that each passage in each song contains only the best ideas. If I were to pick a highlight it would be the final track "Samsara" that I enjoyed the most.
With respect to what the band can offer on their next release, I'd love to hear more of everything, from the Chuck Schuldiner-esque guitar solos, Paul Masvidal inspired lead blitzes and the addition of some slap and thumb bass, all imposed over the drums and percussion via Euclidean geometry.
Important to note is that three of the four members moonlight in both Vipassi and Ne Obliviscaris. We are living in a renaissance era for Australian metal where Thy Art is Murder, Aversions Crown, and a myriad of death and metalcore artists command international attention. On the evidence presented on Sunyata, Vipassi is a band whose success I look forward to charting.