Central Texas melodic death metal group Vex take the word "atmospheric" to new heights. With their latest album, Sky Exile, the band takes you on an epic adventure within the comfort of your own headphones. Fusing melodeath and folk influences, the resulting sound is vast and quite beautiful. They have played with the likes of Agalloch, Morbid Angel, Solstafir, Intronaut, and Absu. From the band:
“Lyrically, the album is written as a set of journal entries from somewhere in West Texas during the torturously hot and drought-ridden summer of 2011. The overall concept is our attempt to imagine the personal narratives and forgotten histories of the abandoned houses that we so often encounter on long and lonely Texas roads.”
Now despite the melodeath background, don't expect an energetic, Gothenburg sound. Vex combine the more subdued approach of Insomnium with the ancient, atmospheric stylings of early Ulver or Drudkh. Where the band slides on the spectrum between these sounds depends highly on the song. While "Nowhere Near" keeps the focus on mostly instrumental post-metal, "The Cygnus Light" is a more straight-forward thriller filled with awesome hooks. But even tracks like the latter maintain folk leanings in either the approach to the riffs or incorporation of acoustic guitar.
Never content to stick with one idea for too long, Sky Exile is filled with dozens of shifting movements, genres, and styles. One moment you're drifting quietly down a secluded river, the next you're shielding your face from a raging dust storm. Tracks may open slowly only to develop into explosive violence, or vice versa. In this way the material can also be likened to groups in the extreme progress genre like Enslaved, Ihsahn, Opeth, or In Mourning. However, in the end Vex have found a sound that is their own.
If you like albums that take you on journeys to other places while still keeping the instrumentation interesting, Sky Exile is the one for you. The musicians are talented players and the compositions are gorgeous. If you have a spare hour on your hands, I highly recommend you put in your earbuds, close your eyes, and let the music take you where it will. Out today.