Prog metal is a genre that refuses to get locked into a particular format or to exclude ideas because they don’t meet preconceptions about what has gone before. It continues to explore uncharted musical territories and push at sonic boundaries. If it were a geographical land mass it would be less of a country and more of a continent. Disparate, complementary or just plain unusual ideas sit happily together as a growing cadre of talented musicians creates music for an intelligent, engaged and open minded audience.
To this musical landscape we now welcome North Carolina’s Verse Vica, a five piece whose debut album – “Endeavor “– is an accomplished and ambitious work. Running as a continuous piece, but whose eight songs can be enjoyed in their own right, it is underpinned loosely by an intriguing concept: each one refers to an element of a game, whether it be a character or city. Music aside, it’s been fun tracking down each reference as part of the reviewing process. You’ll find cities from Pokemon, hybrid creatures from Resident Evil and demons from Magic The Gathering.
But don’t assume these references mean the music is in any way limited: this is a seriously ambitious piece of work, pulled off with virtuoso style, and mastered by Jamie King who has also produced albums for Between The Buried And Me and The Contortionist, amongst others. The link to those bands is a pertinent one, as fans of that band will spot some influences here. Verse Vica are not afraid of pushing themselves musically, as prog meets post metal in an enjoyable, satisfying and clever combination.
The album begins on a subtle, slow paced note, ‘Airyth’ striking an ethereal note with reverb and delay, building in layers to a post rock crescendo before segueing into the heavy ‘Cities I: Cerulean’. A riff based on sweep arpeggios, guitar harmonies and the use of clean and dirty vocals makes this song satisfying and challenging, attacking multiple parts of the listener’s musical brain. This continues through the math metal of ‘Verdugo’, a song that features some very accomplished musical chops. Not content with all that variation, Verse Vica use blast beats and Spanish guitar in ‘Ravenholm’, before returning to post metal in ‘Marumari’. The remainder of the album continues in as equally varied a manner, displaying aggression, restraint, density and space: it’s quite a musical journey.
“Endeavor “ is accomplished, intelligent music made for discerning, intelligent listeners. It’s challenging as all good music and art should be. And for a band to produce a debut that’s this good it can only bode well for the future of Verse Vica as progressive musical force to be reckoned with.