REVIEW: VIPASSI – “Sunyata”
Bands like Spastic Ink and Blotted Science come to mind when one hears the phrase ‘extreme instrumental metal’, but Australian quartet Vipassi is set to get its own name up there via their debut effort ‘Sunyata’. Combining technical riffing, creative drumming and fretless bass-work, the band, which consists of some members of fellow Australian band Ne Obliviscaris, shows a variety of dynamic shifts and changes in the album. This sort of harmony, unusual by mainstream metal standards, allows the members to exploit their creative freedom to the fullest, and makes ‘Sunyata’ a promising release in the instrumental sphere of the progressive metal world.
The band boasts of Ne Obliviscaris members Benjamin Baret (guitar), Dan Presland (drums) and Brendan Brown (bass), and also has Ben Boyle (guitar) from A Million Dead Birds Laughing and Hadal Maw. The coming together of these minds has resulted in music full of ambient elements, quick riffs, powerful blast beats, furious double bass grooves and intricate bass-playing –something Ne Obliviscaris does to an extent, but Vipassi sounds like they have taken it to the next level.
“Elpis” and “Sum” are songs on ‘Sunyata’ which are great examples of instrumentation layered in a way that brings out each member’s unique style of playing. Baret and Boyle include several odd-time riffs, tremolo-picked sections and skilful solos on the album. Despite containing powerful drums and fretless bass, Vipassi manages to focus the attention on the guitars, which sound percussive and gel with the other instruments well.
However, neither guitarist is Ron Jarzombek –the devious and ingenious guitar great responsible for Spastic Ink and Blotted Science. Jarzombek’s completely different approach to guitar-playing in metal gave these bands a unique flavour on the whole, and Vipassi lack in this aspect. Riffs or solos that make you re-listen to them, to confirm what you heard was actually real, are noticeably absent in ‘Sunyata’. Keeping the sound completely instrumental usually warrants for some of this uniqueness to be present.
Presland’s drumming sounds a bit like the drum parts played by Bobby Jarzombek and Hannes Grossmann on Ron Jarzombek’s compositions, and this is down to the extra-smooth transitions between measures and timings. Still, he maintains the signature Presland drumming style of ridiculously consistent double bass, sixteenth-note fills and slick blast beats, and his playing is accentuated by Brendan Brown’s bass. Wielding the fretless instrument and adventurously keeping up with the guitars in some sections, Brown delivers some Obscura-like bass-lines in heavier parts of songs. “Samsara” and “Benzaiten” feature this harmony, and are complete with tom/double bass grooves that are followed timing-wise by Brown, while his bass flirts with the guitar notes at the same time.
By allowing its members to let the creative juices flow unrestricted into the final mix, Vipassi puts out an engaging and diverse instrumental album where you’d hardly notice the lack of vocals. In this regard, Vipassi could do with more specialised and unique elements, but ‘Sunyata’ lets the songs acquire their own voices through the individual brilliance of its members.