Vicinity – Awakening
Vicinity – Awakening (2013)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
There’s been an interesting trend developing over the last year: that of progressive and power metal bands penning increasingly more condensed albums. By this, I mean something to the tune of seven, six, or even five tracks with a full-length running time. Not only is it happening, it appears to be working. Bane Of Winterstorm, Silent Voices, Royal Hunt, and Wintersun (ok, that’s a far stretch for genre, but you get my point), amongst others, have all adroitly crafted compact, hard-hitting albums that tend towards elongated, ambitious tracks. Joining those artists in the fall of 2013, and with nary a peep (hey, it escaped my notice for almost six months!), was Norwegian melodic prog quintet Vicinity with its first full-length release, Awakening.
Before I even begin discussing what this band sounds like, I have to tip my hat to their arrangement of the album: six tracks, in a steadily repeated short/long pattern. Delivering songs in this order makes it considerably easier to digest since I know that, generally speaking, if I look at a tracklist that features two 10+ minute songs in a row, I’m likely to heave a sigh before either of them starts. Seeing as Awakening boasts three songs with a running time of eleven and a half minutes or more, anyone with a short attention span will probably be out the door before the counter hits 0:01.
To it then. Opener “Mass Delusion” begins innocently enough – a very catchy mixture of what, to my ears, sounds like Dream Theater influence (during the chorus), less the wanky tendencies, and mellowed with a Circus Maximus-like approach to lustrous melody and smart, compact structure. Heck, all three of the shorter tracks here are balanced and accessible enough to appeal to power metalheads with ease. However, with the first notes of “Opportunities Lost”, Vicinity begins the process of setting to work on their real audience: the prog fans. Between Alex Lykke’s clear vocals, extremely competent and well-varied guitar work, a tight rhythm section reveling in syncopation, and the right-at-home synths that envelope everything else like a bit of silken finery, Vicinity calls to mind not only other conventional prog metal, but progressive rock influences from Rush to Starcastle, and maybe even Kansas with some of its chorus lines. The vocals of Lykke ought to appeal to those who enjoy the work of I.Q. and Marillion (on the prog rock side), as well as metal vocalists like Michael Eriksen and Damian Wilson.
Despite the strength of the shorter songs and my general taste for nice, concise prog, “Walk All The Way” is probably my favorite song from the album, with its particularly lofty chorus, numerous points of guitar and keyboard interest, and general elevating atmosphere. In all honesty, however, I do not feel that any of the three long tracks from the album are in any way dragging. They have the feel of natural multi-part songs that work by virtue of clear vision and synchronous composition – I’d compare this trait to something like what Dream Theater achieved with long but effortless tracks like “Glass Prison” and “Endless Sacrifice”.
Awakening has all the hallmarks of successful melodic prog, and a great many of progressive rock as well. In fact, while we’ve all seen the “progressive rock/metal” label applied to many bands with the implication that the band straddles the line between the styles, I’ve heard few that really embrace that feeling as well as Vicinity – even though they’re decidedly metal most of the time. So, there you have it, I guess. Vicinity plays clear, refreshing progressive metal for the prog rock fan in all of us – and does a fine job of it. I’ll be watching this band with plenty of interest in days to come. Strongly recommended to all fans of anything that I’ve mentioned or implied!
4.25 // 5