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Monday, November 22, 2010

CD Review: VRSA - Old Man Gray

As seen on The Klepto's Guide:

VRSA comes to me via Reg here at Heavy Planet, after hearing of my love of all things stoner and doom. I tip my hat to him for this interesting foray into doom, stoner, and the un-understandable.

VRSA is a hard band to categorize, although everyone (on the net) calls them some form of doom, it's not the first thing I would think of. I mean that I can definitely hear the doom influences, and even the occasional spattering of stoner throughout (although I wouldn't call them a stoner band either), it's just not what I would expect to hear when handed a 'doom' album. It's almost like alternative doom, or dark metal or something....I can't classify it. The nearest comparison in style and sound is that of Baroness - but even that is a loose one. Certain sounds, styles and tracks (especially close to the end) do bring Baroness to mind, but only for a moment; then the group dives into another direction and the feeling is lost.

Old Man Gray is a mash-up of slow (but not doom), and fast (but not real fast) guitars, with drum beats to match. The fourth track, "Episonic," is the key example of this, one guitar plays a mellow lick repeatedly while the other guitar - with the help of the set - chime in periodically with a up-tempo chord bit, then fade out, then back in again; followed by a semi-breakdown section where all the instruments come together at the quicker tempo for a combined jam. It works pretty damn well (also no lyrics on this one).
The lyrics themselves are multi-focused, with some songs having clean vocals, others with a splash of growl. Some tracks focus the singer in the foreground, with his words crisp and clean; while others have it faded more into the background, battling with the guitars for center stage. It sounds really weird - which it is - but it works great for them.
At about the halfway point the album takes an interesting spin; it begins to sound more like a traditional doom album, and in the same token, becomes mostly instrumental. In a move that is reminiscent of Baroness, of the last five tracks (starting with "Quaalude"), only two have any real lyrics to them (the others have some sound bits spiked in occasionally), and even within those the vocals are pushed to the back. The strange thing is that is is the band's strongest section, where the instrumentals do tend to get a tad tedious, but the couple of vocalized tracks are good displays of the odd doom/post-metal that VRSA has been attempting for the entire album. They try to follow in the sludge/ambient wake of Baroness (the best comparison I can think of), but don't pull it off as well

This album is good, not great, but good. I can't put my finger on what they do well or bad, but sometimes you don't need to. This is kind of a crap review/introduction to VRSA, but I can't pinpoint anything about the album; it's style, what makes it good, what stands out, it's all a swirling, living creature of an album, and while it may chew up your favorite pair of shoes, you still love it.


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