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(56:28, Progrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Drudge 4:45 2. Gini 4:24 3. Beginnings 5:25 4. Strog Arm Welfare 4:55 5. Poising for the Cold 2:29 6. The Battle of Ego 3:00 7. Autenticity 3:11 8. Open Hands 4:00 9. In the Mirror 5:05 10. The Now Game 4:12 11. Field of View 4:33 12. Coiled 11:00 LINEUP: Jeff Vaughn – drums; guitars; keyboards; backing vocals Vince Buonassi – bass; guitars; keyboards Chase Carter – vocals; guitars
Prolusion. The US act VONASSI was formed in Chicago in 2001, initially as an experimental musical vehicle for Vaughn and Buonassi. As the project evolved and they wanted to start recording a full length debut effort, Carter was added to the fold as well. The band was signed to the US label Progrock Records towards the tail end of 2009, and their debut album "The Battle of Ego" was released in early 2010.
Analysis. When listening to this CD, it was easy to understand why this act was signed. It is a good quality album, but more importantly this is a band that seems to be pretty well on its way to defining its own signature sound. That is, it is pretty hard to pigeonhole the music provided on this production into any specific genre, and while references to several artists might be more or less easy to catch, none of them come across as more influential than the others. And when all compositions can be described in this manner, and despite being at times radically different in mood and intensity all of them are still easily identified as the work of one artist, then you have an act that any respectable record company would sign, as long as the artist in question explores a type of music the record company knows how to reach, obviously. As far as stylistic expression goes, I guess contemporary art rock is as good as a moniker as any. There are a fair amount of alternative and indie elements added to Vonassi's musical potpourri, and at times you'll catch some grunge-inspired moments too, but all placed within a modern art rock setting. Porcupine Tree is an obvious reference, and I assume that acts like Rush, Spock's Beard and The Police should be useful references in trying to gain an impression of the type of music explored on "The Battle of Ego". The bass guitar seems to be very much at the heart of the proceedings. The driving and often energetic bass appears to be the foundation of most compositions, providing momentum as well as a distinct sound, from clean and at times funk-tinged textures to a distorted, heavy grunge-inspired sound at the most extreme. The latter is most often the case this time around: guitars and subtle keys are placed on top, and the arrangements range from sparse mellow escapades with acoustic guitars and bass to majestic multilayered constructions featuring a plethora of both guitars and tangents, with an emphasis on a rich, full sound featuring distinct contrasts between light and dark layers in the theme explored. In the less epic parts of the compositions the lead vocals of Carter provide the most distinct contrasting element, his light and controlled vocal delivery creating a strong nerve in contrast to the often distorted bass and, when utilized, heavy riffs from the guitar. Many passages feature acoustic and electric guitars both, usually to create an additional tension-inducing contrast. While I find this rather sophisticated album to be pretty intriguing and in part really impressive, in particular on the interlocked three-part track Posing for the Cold/The Battle of Ego/Authenticity, some progressive rock aficionados might find the compositions comparatively disappointing from a structural point of view. While the arrangements are sophisticated and elaborate, the compositional structure is more of a straightforward affair. More advanced than most strictly commercially-oriented music, but not to the extent that it will impress those looking for the latest highly complicated, truly challenging endeavor.
Conclusion. Fans of bands like Porcupine Tree might be the most obvious target audience for this band. Its contemporary take on the heavier part of the art rock universe is perhaps more creative than truly innovative, but as far as artists blending indie and alternative influences within a progressive rock frame of reference go, Vonassi is a good quality example of such an act. Adventurous followers of progressive metal might also find this effort intriguing, as the bass guitar in particular often touches upon a sound and texture with more of a metal sound to it. Overall, a strong and very promising debut effort that should appeal most strongly to those with an interest in modern progressive rock.
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