Vintersea – Illuminated

A few months ago I received and email regarding the upcoming album from Vintersea, a metal band hailing from Oregon. I honestly can’t recall exactly why I received the email, but it mentioned the cover art for Illuminated had been created by Xenoyr, harsh vocalist for Ne Obliviscaris.

This instantly intrigued me, as I am a huge and unapologetic NeO fan. If Xen was contributing something to this band, I assumed (whether this assumption was correct or not) that there must be some merit to the band and their work. The email also detailed a special collectors pack of the album, including CD, vinyl, t-shirt and photo book. I’m a sucker, and tell me this collectors pack is limited and includes the vinyl and, well, I had to force myself to not just press “Add to Cart”. You know, self-control and all that.

At the very least, I felt I should check out a song or two before I made the jump. Again, this is what we call “being responsible”, right?

Enter “Illuminated”, title track, and lead single from the album of the same name. I added it via Apple Music (most likely) and started listening. I’m sure I’m not the only one to have certain songs indelibly linked to memories, and this is one of those cases. It was late at night, my entire family had gone to bed and the house was dark. I was letting the dog out one last time for the night, and was jamming to this previously unknown to me band.

“Illuminated” starts off well enough, some keys and then some relatively standard sounding modern metal guitars. The sound was crisp, clean, and the guitar had a good tone. Lead singer Avienne entered the mix with a very pleasant voice, some layered effects to add to it, and a mild build in intensity with some double bass as the song progressed. Then it pulled back again, easing off the gas pedal. It was good, solid, if not entirely impressive music. An oddly placed spoken word passage appeared (turns out the album is a bit of a concept album, but I didn’t know this at the time), and then a bridge with, again, some very pleasant vocals. So far, my favorite part of the song was Avienne’s vocals.

Still, nothing about this was grabbing me. It wasn’t standing out in any way from a handful of other relatively generic, female fronted metal bands. Even the guitar solo was just fine. It was pleasant and enjoyable, but not attention grabbing.

And then it hits. About 4:45 in, the song gets quite a bit heavier, and Avienne suddenly breaks out some throat ripping growls, the double bass really kicks in, and now we have something different.

So sudden was the change in my interest, I remember saying out loud in the darkness “Okay, you guys just sold me.”

Illuminated is a chimera of modern progressive metal, death metal, and some blackened elements that really helped give this band their own identity. The rest of the album is just as, if not stronger than that single. “Spawn Awakening” starts of with a real kick, and I love playing it for others and letting them know just who provides the vocals. While not a dizzying display of turbulent time signatures, there are still plenty of progressive moments to be found. Songs change style and identity, have longer passages, and don’t feel like they are being crammed into a box.

Overall, I quite enjoy the album and there is a lot to really like. My only complaint is the use of saxophone on “Crack of Light”. It falls victim to the “Jones saxophone law” which states that the excellence of a song is inversely proportional to the amount of saxophone used. That is to say, the less sax, the better. Always. Heck, Kenny G’s music would be infinitely more tolerable if the saxophone was removed.

However, that doesn’t detract from what is an otherwise excellent album. This is a tight affair, coming in at only 39 minutes. It doesn’t overstay its welcome and manages to remain impactful by avoiding bloat. The performances are all excellent, and I can’t say enough good about Avienne. She has a wonderful clean voice that is a joy to listen to, and growls that are powerful and punishing. Illuminated is also a very nice maturation and improvement over their previous album The Gravity of Fall. This is a band with a lot of talent, a vision of what they want to become, and are well worth keeping your eye on.

And, yes, I did end up ordering that collectors pack. And I have no regrets.

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