Breaching The Sound
30th September 2014 – Self-released
03. An Endless Voyage
04. A Source Of Reflection
06. Wishes In Awakenings
07. The Farewell Fixture
08. Our Midnight Canvas
09. Until We See The Ocean
10. Burn Your Garden Down
11. Of One’s Passing
12. The Heart Machine
In 2011, Maryland-based progressive/dream rock outfit Vestascension set out on an ambitious task: in an attempt to subvert the usual two year album cycle into which most bands fall, the band decided that they would instead release one single from their debut on the first of each month, followed by the full album after each song had premiered on Bandcamp. By all accounts the plan was going well until the band parted ways with lead vocalist Mike Semesky (now of Intervals and Raunchy) and drummer Mike Chubb. Vestascension quickly raced to find a new replacements and months later they released a few more songs, far outside of the original schedule.
For fans, it was a bit disappointing, but it looked like the first of the month was going to continue being something to look forward to. Then nothing happened. Songs stopped being released, and the band stopped making regular updates. It would take some time for the band to announce that they were re-recording the first eight songs they had released, to prevent their debut from having a feeling of disjointedness due to the presences of different lead vocalists. Nearly three years later, that enterprise has been finalised and Vestascension are ready to release Breaching The Sound into the world and prepare for future steps in the music world. But is the final product worth the wait?
Those familiar with the original songs – now dubbed demos by the band – will notice that the album’s track-list flows in the same order that they were originally released, with the addition of three new tracks, and a renaming of a fourth (formerly “Then We Are Here“, now “A Source of Reflection“). This won’t be a problem for new listeners, but those who stuck around from the beginning may find that bit jarring. However, each song has been slightly tweaked in its production, and the addition of the band’s new vocalist lends at least a small amount of freshness to the tunes.
The music as a whole is, in a word, ethereal. Blending aspects from progressive bands like Dream Theater and the more radio friendly styles of Coldplay, Vestascension create a dynamic sound that is accessible yet deep; there’s no overload on wank or much in the way of pretension, and the interplay between the two vocalists, the guitar, and the delicate keyboards creates the ideal ‘dream rock’ sound without ever sounding boring or diluted. The drums and bass are serviceable, but they often feel lacking in the mix – although the drums can be active and engaging from time to time, and even the highlight of a few songs like “Lifoliage” or “Wishes in Awakenings“.
With music as soft, and mellow as this, it would be easy for listeners to grow bored, especially when an album is nearly seventy minutes long – yet even with the calm nature of the music, there is still a sense of drive running through the songs. There’s an almost stadium rock feel, based around the vocal melodies; the poppy, effervescent quality to the dual voices – one in a higher register, and one noticeably lower (without ever going too low) – elevates the rather simplistic music to something grandiose. The juxtaposition between the two, and their obligatory harmonies create a soothing clash of textures. It’s difficult to tell exactly which one is Brain Wade, and which one is Josh Clark, but the two play off of each other extremely well.
There’s also an impressive sense of atmosphere that is captured in each song, which is particularly surprising as none of the songs are all that long. Take note fellow prog rockers, as this goes to show that excessive length is not necessary for building sonic textures and emotive feelings through progressive music. There’s a real point to each track; a succinctness that lends the songs to creating small little stories that still feel whole and immersive. Ultimately, there’s a real heart to this collection of tracks that thankfully isn’t lost due to overwrought songwriting.
The true star of the album lies within track four, the reworked version of the previously named “Then We Are Here“, now known as “A Source of Reflection”. The demo was a quaint, moody song that showed off some of the biggest talents of the band; strong, vibrant drum fills, groovey bass, and some truly inspired guitar melodies combined with the dual vocals. All of that remains on “A Source of Reflection”, but some magical spark was added to the song that lifted it up from a nice, relaxing tune to the thunderous anthem that it is today. Brian Wade steps out of the comfort zone on this track, and his contrast with Clark is never more prevalent than on this song, creating a chaotic juxtaposition between the two of them amongst a huge swell of guitar and drums that just keeps building and pressing back against each other. It’s a wonderful moment and a true highlight.
Finding a weak spot in this album is actually quite difficult, especially when the music is just so positive, uplifting and fun. Listeners could nitpick or throw shade on the fact that there aren’t many new compositions, and there are not many sizable differences or alterations to the older songs – with the exception of track four – or people could be upset because they prefer Mike Semesky over Brian Wade, or any other minor detail. But in the end, Breaching the Sound is a surprising, and ultimately satisfying debut from a delightfully positive group of young musicians. The wait was long, annoying, and maybe not exactly what was promised, but give this one a listen; you won’t regret the decision.