Album Review: VEXES Ancient Geometry
Whether you like it or not, it's undeniably interesting to witness fads of the late 90's and early 2000's come slithering back. While the main original nü-metal bands like Korn, Deftones, Limp Bizkit, and Linkin Park are mostly still active nowadays, newer acts with blatant influence from the aforementioned groups such as King 810, Ded, Islander, or Darke Complex have been popping up all over the map. The sad reality of these kinds of situations is that the latter bands will never be as or more successful than their predecessors.
I have high doubts that anyone has ever sincerely stated, "wow this artist sounds even better than [insert influential genre pioneer]" except in the rare occasion where said band mixes enough new ideas and originality into the result. With Vexes, the Deftones comparisons have been unavoidable, yet I'm entering this review hoping the group built up their own unique identity to counteract such a lingering reputation.
As for their background, Vexes arises from the broken pieces of disbanded acts. Frontman Charlie Berezansky (Vessl), John Klagholz (guitars/keyboards, Vessl), Bobby Carpenter (bass, A Life Once Lost), and Justin Graves (drums, A Life Once Lost) took the styles of their previous endeavors and ramped up the energy in this new project, which merges the hard edge of alternative metal, dreamy post-rock passages, atmospheric ambience, and post-hardcore breakdowns. Their self-released full-length debut album, Ancient Geometry, was engineered and mixed in-house by Berezansky at Skywire Sound Studios in West Creek, NJ and mastered by Mike Kalajian (The Dear Hunter, Saosin, Emmure) at Rogue Planet Mastering.
On the initial listen, the headlines prove to be true. The softer art rock elements that grew in Deftones' Saturday Night Wrist and on their recent Gore are very alike those showcased in the following tracks. "Lift," "Decisions are Death Here," and "Plasticine" represent the dreary, emotional vocal deliveries of Chino Moreno. To be clear though, all these songs are definitely enjoyable. The inviting melodies consistent in "Lift" are fitting for a late night drive through the city. Equally so, "Decisions Are Death Here" is immersive in the sense of being a tame, post-metal song.
Beneath the surface, there is a decent amount of forward-thinking experimentation revealed on these tracks lacking the Deftones dirge glued to the previously mentioned songs. "Photochrom" teased a more melodic metalcore side of the group. Meanwhile, "No Color" was an effective song due to heavy dynamics and a guest appearance of Islander's Mikey Carvajal. The repetitive, catchy chorus on "Lush" is definitely on the radio-friendly side of the tracks, almost excessively. While the band's ability to concoct an infectious vocal melody is impressive, I hope that Vexes strays away from such conventionalities and simplicity moving forward. It's a shame because there were some rad drum fills and heavy moments throughout the piece. However, I wanted to hit skip by the second time the chorus emerged. The closing title track was easily the band's best use of sonic layering and sound manipulation as well.
I'm not 100% sold yet on the band, but am willing to give them continued listens and my full attention on the next release. There are some undeniable solid melodies, musicianship, and experimentation on Ancient Geometry, but after careful consideration, I came to the conclusion that the score would be higher if it weren't for the overly present Deftones similarities. That aspect was easily and unfortunately the most significant downside of the record.
There were a couple musical cheap shots here and there, however if Vexes finds a way to cleanse themselves of this trait, I think they could be huge. There were many shining and mature attributes in a lot of these compositions, but they were inevitably anchored down. To finish on a hot take, I do find this LP way more of an enjoyable experience than Deftones' Gore. If Vexes continues to experiment and expand on their unique aspects and identity, I'll change my neutral position to favorable.