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The Melancholy Hour
Released: 2010, Self Released
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Following up 2008’s self-titled debut, Portuguese ambient metallers Vertigo Steps have returned with THE MELANCHOLY HOUR. For fans of the debut, you’ll be happy to know that THE MELANCHOLY HOUR is an appropriate successor, with better production values and more consistent songwriting. For those new to Vertigo Steps, this is a great introduction to a talented band that’s ready to make their mark.
The band presents an interesting blend of melodic, gothic infused metal that’s hard to pin down in traditional genre definitions. Think of a more upbeat version of Katatonia and a less self-destructive version of Sentenced and you’re on the right track. But there’s much more to Vertigo Steps, and they’re eager to demonstrate that. THE MELANCHOLY HOUR opens with the sweepingly emotive “The Spider & The Weaving,” which is essentially a blueprint for what the album is all about - Niko Mankinen’s smooth, yet powerful vocals, Bruno A’s dark, melodic guitar harmonies, and Daniel Cardoso’s pounding drums. The album ebbs and flows between the heavy (“Desperation Lair”, “Silent Ground”, “Red Haze”) and the introspective (“Inhale”, “Under Burning Waters”), but there’s always a balance and each track takes it own twists and turns.
What I found most impressive about THE MELANCHOLY HOUR is the uncanny sense of melody that seems to come so naturally for Vertigo Steps. The songs are memorable and more than once did I find myself humming a bridge or chorus to myself well after I’d finished the album. Songs like “Through Sham Lenses” and the Gene Loves Jezebel cover “Sweet, Sweet Rain” sound custom built for rock radio, and are fine examples of how a band can present a commercially viable product without selling its soul. Production wise, the album sounds uber-slick and crisp. The mix on the band’s debut took some heat, particularly with the vocals, but it appears that the lesson was learned as overall the album sounds great. It’s clear that the band took a great deal of care in all areas of THE MELANCHOLY HOUR, from the writing, to the performance, to the general theme and presentation of the album, and that attention to detail pays off.
THE MELANCHOLY HOUR is a great album. It’s musically challenging without sounding bloated, self confident without sounding pretentious. It hits all the right points and maintains its focus throughout the duration. Potentially a sleeper hit of 2010, Vertigo Steps is a band worth becoming familiar with. THE MELANCHOLY HOUR is currently available through iTunes and CD Baby.
1. The Spider and the Weaving
2. Vacant Stare
3. Desperation Lair
6. Under Burning Waters
7. Reel World
8. Through Sham Lenses
9. Red Haze
10. Redemption River, Dividing Ocean
11. Sweet, Sweet Rain
12. Burial Light
Bruno A – Guitars, Keyboards, Sampling
Niko Mankinen – Vocals
Daniel Cardoso – Drums, Bass, Backing Vocals
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