ARTIST: Urban Vitamin
ALBUM NAME: Ekphrasis
RELEASE DATE: 3 February 2017
COUNTRY: South Africa
GENRE: Alternative Metal
Cobus Nigrini – Vocals, Guitars
Rick de Villiers – Drums, Vocals
Cicero Carstens – Bass
Ricky Dunningham – Drums
Neville Botha – Guitars, Electronica
Pretoria-based band, Urban Vitamin, formed in 2008 are no strangers to the music-making game. Their latest album, Ekphrasis, was released just this month. What is interesting to note here is the talented Cicero Carstens, who you might recognise as the man behind some of the Boargazm art. This alone sets off all the sirens, ladies and gentlemen, there is far more at play here than just instruments. The album art provides the perfect pre-context for the album.
Apparent at first as some red and blue sweeps of a brush, upon peeling back the layers the brush strokes become two birds, intertwined yinyang-like into a fiery sunset against a violent sea. It is this contrast that hints at what’s to come within the album especially in song structure where there are changes in pace, rhythm and vocal style that both contradict and complement. This brings me to the title of the album, ‘Ekphrasis’. The word means to give a literary explanation or commentary of a visual artwork. However, this particular ekphrasis will not just be a visual one.
The album starts off with an electronic intro, drums crashing in the distance signalling impending doom. One is reminded of a world such as that in Stephen King’s ‘The Gunslinger ‘ in which humanity has moved on. The vocals kick in from the very next song, signalling the band’s slow and steady transition between alternative rock and metal. The scream vocals are raw, unpolished and remind of the style used within Hardcore Metal. This style is present throughout the album contrasting sharply with the clean yet unconventional singing. Bloodless Ballet is a song that draws out the balance between light and heavy in a musical chiaroscuro and does it well. This album follows their previous instalment, Agent Provocateur. The similarity in song placement and content is so striking that one can hardly help but draw parallels and realise that not much is left to coincidence, that the album is conceptual in nature and that there is more than meets the ear.
Overall, there are some truly great moments where the instruments and vocals seem to come together and pulse in perfect unison. The electronic pieces are highly intriguing and one wishes to hear it incorporated a bit more. However, some of the opposing musical choices could have been integrated slightly better. Even though this is the general concept of the album, some intricate transitions might have rounded it off more successfully. Whilst thoroughly enjoyable, it takes a few listens on repeat to fully understand its nuances. Due to its cross-genre affairs however, it might not be to everyone’s tastes. It is clear though that Ekphrasis is the next step in the band’s heavier evolution and it would be very interesting to see how this style emerges in future with perhaps a full length album.
Reviewed by: Kanga-Roo
Shots Fired by: Sammy SF (More from Sammy)
Date: 09 March 2017
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