Brave The Vertigo – ‘Oppenheimer Quoting Vishnu’ Album Review

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A progressive band from Burlington, Vermont with a list of legendary influences including Yes, King Crimson, Opeth and Tool, Brave the vertigo provide little in the way of biographical detail regarding their release, preferring the music to speak for itself. Featuring a mere four tracks, ‘Oppenheimer quoting Vishnu’ carries with it the air of the great, indulgent releases of the seventies where bands would regularly release albums with tracks that ate up one side of vinyl. Recorded over a two year period ‘Oppenheimer…’ is very much a labour of love and represents the hard work and imaginative nature of a band who should be high on the purchase list of any progressive rock fans.

There’s no denying the angular crunch to Brave The Vertigo’s output, opening track ‘fat man schematic’ has a brutal swing to it that sits between Tool and Opeth, but it’s the vocal approach that produces the most surprise, Franky Andreas’ multi-layered performance drawing more from Supertramp and the Gabriel-led Genesis than from the school of Maynard, with the result that the music spins of in unexpected directions, often contradicting what experience would lead you to expect. It’s intelligent, well-written and thought-provoking and it has the added bonus of featuring some sublime, understated lead work from Ben Bouchard. Progressive with a capital P, there’s no doubt that Brave the vertigo draw from a deep well of influences, but it’s how they have configured those influences that marks them out as a special band indeed and when, suddenly, the ground underneath your feet shifts and you’re plunged directly into the path of Erik Tidman’s percussive onslaught with screams echoing all around you realise that this is a band unafraid of introducing sonic curveballs with a deft touch and no hint of warning. Indeed, wouldn’t you be surprised if the band broke into some beautifully pastoral, folk-inflected prog in the vein of Caravan on the second track following on from such a thunderous opening? And yet, in the hands of Brave the vertigo such a stylistic shift not only fits the tapestry of the album but even manages to sound perfectly natural. Such skill is to be applauded and it marks the band out as something special indeed, standing tall in the remarkable pantheon of new progressive bands such as Sound of contact, Haken and The Twenty Committee. Third track ‘Yena’ reworks the depressing lyrical theme of ‘Beautiful tonight’ via Soul Asylum’s ‘string of Pearls’ and sets it to the music of Black label Society playing David Gilmour covers with suitably beautiful, yet melancholic results. The final track, ‘winged victory’ strikes an initially mournful pose with a delicate synth back drop and lilting guitars giving way to the multi-tracked bombast of Queen for a suitably epic finale to the record.

In conclusion Brave the Vertigo are a band who are committed to taking progressive music back into the realms of the unknown rather than simply re-treading the sonic exploration of bands that have gone before and while there are numerous reference points dotted liberally across the album, the overall feel is one of innovation as the band twist differing styles into new shapes and bend disparate elements to their will in an effort to delve further into the progressive hinterlands left mined but not desolated by acts such as Caravan, King Crimson and Pink Floyd and their still-mighty descendants Tool, Anathema and Opeth.  2013 was an astonishing year for progressive music and with releases from the likes of Transatlantic set to open 2014 it seems the momentum could well be maintained. Irrespective of the fortunes of the parent genre, ‘Oppenheimer quoting Vishnu’ is an elegant and intelligent addition to any collection, and a marvellous piece of work from this mysterious four-piece, more than warranting careful exploration.

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