Released: 2012, Ethereal Sound Works
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
SURFACE / LIGHT, the latest full length from Portugal’s Vertigo Steps could possibly be the heaviest record of the year that’s not really a heavy record. If that sounds like a perplexing statement, I’ll fast forward to the credits and encourage you to hear it for yourself. But if you need more of a reason to do so, I’ll continue on.
Conceptually the band is in the same frame of mind as evidenced on 2010’s underrated and wholly excellent THE MELANCHOLY HOUR, but they’ve made sizable strides in terms of execution. Bruno A and company continue on their musical journey through progressive, dark, and ambient metal territories, but SURFACE / LIGHT has a consistency in presentation and a more organic veneer to it that pushes the album from good to great. Much like recent work from Katatonia and Amorphis, Vertigo Steps have achieved a Zen like balance between atmosphere, melody, and heaviness. And before you take my initial statement to task, yes, there are plenty of powerful, edgy moments across SURFACE / LIGHT. But there’s a pervasive serenity that cascades across the album’s 12 tracks that punctuates those moments articulately
But let’s talk songs shall we? There are some spectacular mood altering moments like “The Hollow,” “Railroads” “Helsinki,” and “The Porcupine Dilemma,” but it’ songs like “Silent Bliss,” “Tonight I Die,” “Zeppelin on Fire” that really define Vertigo Steps’ mission statement. They maintain that level of captivating ambience while conveying a punchy sense of urgency that resonates strongly. The performances on the SURFACE / LIGHT aren’t flashy or self indulgent, but there’s always a variety of different instruments and arrangements at play that add a texture of complexity to the songs. It adds a nice level of replay value, given the odds that you’ll hear something you may have missed on previous listens.
SURFACE / LIGHT is best experienced from start to finish, as each tune compliments the next and provides for a complete listening experience. But pick out any track on the album and chances are that you’ll find something captivating about it. With SURFACE / LIGHT, Vertigo Steps continues to prove themselves to be one of the best bands that you should be listening to. Check out their website for samples and purchase info.