By Ryan Falla
Australia is not one of the more popular cultures to find a deep attachment to the metal genre, the world’s supplier being most European nations and America. But it’s always fascinating to see the way cultures impact the art it gives birth to; from the stoner metal culture of America’s deep south to the power metal that encapsulates the medieval warrior culture of old Europe. What Vipassi brings out of Australia with their debut album ‘Sunyata’ is a mystifying trip into chaos through instrumental, extreme progressive metal.
Vipassi paints a typical picture of extreme prog-metal, often flying so quickly through scale-bending riffage and time signature tom foolery that you don’t really catch onto what’s going on. ‘Sunyata’ offers an extremely formulaic approach that sees almost every song on this album following the same trend; opening with blast beats and guitar scale-wankery.
The content in ‘Sunyata’ is presented well enough from track to track, the technical prowess of Vipassi enough to keep the extreme progressive tendencies listenable. When Vipassi decides to take a turn away from these tendencies, they show that they can put together palatable music that isn’t muddied in aimless prog-wankery. Unfortunately, these elements are few and far between; almost as if Vipassi knows that as an instrumental act they need to reach far as musicians to pull attention, over-compensating with technical musicianship.
‘Sunyata’ throws a lot of elements at the wall, and while it is marginally enjoyable at first; like a modern abstract art after repeated viewings you begin to wonder if it is abstract for the sake of being astract.
The technical prowess of the musicians on this record is fantastic, yet they take too much effort into showing off their entire repertoire and little attention is paid to what makes the elements they use successful in the first place. ‘Sunyata’ feels like an album that focuses so much on building a repetitive formula, there ends up being zero fruition brought to said formula; it’s just the same thing done repeatedly with no goal towards where the music wants to go.
Vipassi builds a decent, but overcompensating, musical framework that misses its chances to stick to the listener by providing no clear grip. ‘Sunyata’ does its job as a debut album and puts Vipassi on the map as a competent act while providing many instances of needing to build on top of their formula to find extended success.
The cards are seemingly stacked against Vipassi, taking on the metal scene as an instrumental extreme progressive metal act. Fortunately for Vipassi, they show they can stand up to the challenge and provide solid material; this album does not leave a bad taste in your mouth so much as it does leave you knowing you could have better. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a knock on Vipassi in the least bit, it is simply the knowledge that what ‘Sunyata’ presents has all of the potential with little delivery.
Albums like ‘Sunyata’ are fascinating because, as a debut album, it showcases all of the potential the band has while offering massive room for growth. This is the type of album that would stand out as a benchmark of the raw elements Vipassi possesses that have been refined into gold, all that is required is the personal need to grow as musicians and the awareness to avoid tunnel vision as songwriters.
What Vipassi presents with this debut isn’t an album that will strike you with standout elements, often leaving you wondering what could be done if Vipassi didn’t pigeonhole themselves into writing each track with the same vision as the last, offering not much except competent prog metal. If you dislike progressive metal for being a wank show then this is an album you’ll want to avoid, whereas if you approach ‘Sunyata’ track by track and don’t expect much other than a decent showing and you won’t be overly dissatisfied.
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Record Label: Season Of Mist
Release Date: January 20th 2017
Vipassi links: facebook