Occasionally a record comes across our path that grabs our attention and incites a number of opinions. Cue Vexes. The group, comprised of former members of acts like A Life Once Lost, Fury of Five, Downstage and Vessl, is making waves with their early 2000’s alternative metal sound, giant riffs, well-crafted songs and varied vocals. We brought together staff writers Pete and Jonce, as well as our Editor-in-chief, Landon, to discuss Vexes‘s debut record, Ancient Geometry. Ancient Geometry will be independently released on February 23.
I’m sure my fellow writers will point out the notable Deftones influences that Vexes brings to the table on Ancient Geometry. Unfortunately, I do not have the same background with Deftones that other audiophiles of the late 90s and early 00s may have. This is because 1) I was in preschool around that time and 2) I had terrible friends who only listened to bands like Puddle of Mudd and Chevelle. Chevelle in particular is where my mind goes when listening to Ancient Geometry. Tracks like “Plasticine” give me equal vibes of White Pony and Vena Sera.
Other tracks like “No Color” have a unique balance between melodic flow and chord organization. The softer sections remind me of Destrage’s most recent album, while the flow of the chords feels like classic BTBAM. On the other hand, the rap flow on this track leaves a lot to be desired on an otherwise solid track. Seriously, the band should have known this trend had died when they heard last year’s Prophets of Rage record.
My other big critique of Ancient Geometry is its use of small interludes to fill up space in the tracklist, with the exception of the wonderful breakdown towards the end of “Helion”. Other than those few flaws, Vexes has a lot to offer! Not only do they supply anthemic choruses and hooks, but also very progressive flavors. There’s the syncopated “Terra” that made my head spin, the Chevelle-inspired “Lift” , and the slow and sludgy title track catering to my inner Glassjaw fan.
Vexes somehow manages to find that sweet spot between formula and freak. My only hope is that they aren’t too afraid to keep experimenting (especially after those rap verses…yikes). For now, I’m satisfied with offering my congratulations to the band and headbanging to the catchy goodness.
Personal Score: 7/10
I was going to start by drawing some comparisons, but I feel this album deserves praise first. Vexes have roared onto the scene with a ferocity which many band aspire to achieve. From the first belter to the last, this album has substance aplenty with variations around the core theme. This is a sublime serving of post-metal, which will feel damn familiar, yet new, energizing and exciting.
With large, heavy as fuck guitars, Vexes feel like they have taken influence from the bands of the late 90s and early 00s, and to draw some comparisons to bands our readers are familiar with – it sounds like they’ve encapsulated the raw fury of progressive metal acts like Uneven Structure. They also throw in some really great experimental sections into their album, creating a great mesh between the songs that makes this a brilliant auditory experience from start to finish.
But… they do sound awfully similar to Deftones, almost down to the chords! I mean this as no offence, but it’s uncanny at points how heavily influenced they are. That being said, the guys do take ownership of this, as stated on their Bandcamp. Vexes really add a twist to the music which separates them from the post-metal titans, which resides in the brilliant guitar tones, stunning interludes, excellent percussion work of the drummer Justin Graves and, above all, the different song structures. Some songs climax in the first minute before dumping you into a dream, whilst others are anthemic before tearing into some heavy breakdowns.
Some of the climaxes in the songs are monstrous, as are some of the fiery outbursts from Charlie Berezansky on lead vocals. The latter is something we didn’t really see in Deftones‘ latest album Gore, and it’s damn good to see. Songs like “Helion” and “Terra” turn up the heat, whilst “Decisions Are Death Here” serves up the heavy before drifting off into a fugue state, wandering through time and space. I found the album great to jump into halfway through, as much as it is great to throw on from start to finish.
For me, one of the biggest shames is that the last few tracks get a little samey and don’t push the boat out too far. The first four tracks of the album are being released as singles, which points towards the album being front loaded, with the more average tracks following up the rear.
On the whole, this album is fantastic though, and any fans of Deftones, Thrice and even bands like POD will love this, assuming of course there’s no snobbery holding them back. I really think Vexes will burst onto the international scene quickly, as punters always want what they’ve had, but new and improved.
Personal Score: 8/10
Vexes‘s brand of mid-aughts alternative metal will be unabashedly enjoyable for fans of the genre. From Ancient Geometry‘s opener “Helion”, the quartet’s penchant for gritty riffage, moody verses and aggressive, catchy choruses is effectively established. Although I have never been a huge Deftones fan, those looking for a less polished Nothing More or a more straightforward and streamlined Karnivool may also find points of interest here. And even though Vexes draw deep from their well of influences, they do so with an appreciation for the craft that is admirable.
Songs like “Decisions Are Death Here” pull together an earthy Tool aesthetic while peddling in down-tuned riffs, huge choruses, and distinctly Linkin Park-esque vibes. As the group alludes to in their bio, there are additional elements of post-rock/metal in their occasionally soft soundscapes and command for dynamic crescendos. The group also attempts to implement some broader influences, but with somewhat less success. “No Color” has a promising opening and driving pre-chorus, before a truly radio-friendly hook. However, the rapped verse on the track from guest Mikey Carvajal feels quite tame and tepid, drawing me out of the album’s experience for a brief moment of confusion.
Although there is nary a misstep here (the awkward aforementioned guest verse notwithstanding), all ten tracks on Ancient Geometry occupy similar spaces in terms of tempo, tone and arrangement. They clearly succeed in this territory, but their songs at the same time suffer for their somewhat limited scope. Vexes are certainly skilled at their craft, and have honed a mature, identifiable sound at an admirably early point in their career, but I am excited to hear what a more varied, ambitious Vexes could accomplish on future releases.
Personal Score: 7.5/10
Overall Score: 7.5/10
Notable Tracks: “Helion”; “Terra”; “Decisions Are Death Here”
FFO: Deftones, Chevelle, Glassjaw