Vexing – Grand Reproach
Vexing is a Progressive Sludge trio that doesn’t make the most soothing music. But that’s all by design. Formed in 2017, with influences stemming from Sludge and Prog acts like Yautja and Inter Arma but also Russian Circles and even Rush, the music is a certain grinding brand of sludge that reaches towards a more dynamic sound. Grand Reproach looks to challenge the sonic landscape with striking guitar tones, fiercely spirited drums, and mercilessly relentless riffs, all on top of an undulating and frightening ambiance.
- Garrett Jones – Guitars/Vocals
- Clayton Whitelaw – Bass/Vocals
- Jeff Malpezzi – Drums
May 26, 2023 – Ordovician Records https://ordovicianrecords.bandcamp.com/
- The Mold
- Vanquishing Light
- The Invisible Hand
- Shallow Breath
- Small Black Flame
- Red Skies
This is not your parent’s Sludge Metal, nor is it their Progressive Metal. It sits somewhere in between, yet somehow exceeding the limits of both genres. From the start, “The Mold” opens with static noises, then surges into an arhythmic fury with the guitars and drums working different patterns. Somewhere in there, the bass thunders under the riff, giving the guitars a more powerful, brasher sound. The Death Metal growls round out the sonic dissonance.
Not a fan of shorter songs; there is only one track under four minutes and three over six minutes. Their first extended track is the seven-plus minute “Vanquishing Light,” The guitar work on this track sounds almost hollow, haunted in places, adding a twisted ambiance to the composition. Coupled with the harsh vocals, it presents a threatening tone that is both eerie and soothing. That’s an interesting combination I’m not used to, but I enjoy it.
“Shallow Breath” opens with some weird, discordant tones that actually make me feel uncomfortable. That is not a problem, just an observation. Then, “Howling” opens with wind soaring across the void. They are very good at fading songs in, bringing them to life with one feel, then shifting to something different, making you wonder what could come next. Granted, “Howling” is just ambient keys and winds that lead to another song, but the fact the keys turn into ethereal piano tones is impressive. They are very adept at keeping you on your toes.
The longest track on the record is “Small Black Flame,” at nine and a half minutes. Sirens, discordant guitars, and ominous undertones lead the track. Then, the drums come in subdued but blast the song wide open after a few measures. The guitars get really heavy, straying about as far away from Sludge as Vexing ever gets. Moving the vocals to the background gives the song a creepy, scary vibe. You must strain to hear the voice because it sounds like it is down a long, scary tunnel, and things are lurking between you and the voice. That tunnel metaphor is sustained by the train whistles in the background at the midpoint.
Vexing is not a standard band for any genre, blazing their own path. Taking their own course through a dark, foreboding forest, they leave the listener with a bit of a nauseous feeling, like they’ve just been through a haunted house or something. It’s oddly satisfying getting to the end of the record and realizing you just survived something dark and eerie. The vibe this record puts out is intense.
- Guitars – 9
- Rhythms – 9
- Vocals – 8
- Songwriting – 8
- Production – 8
- Overall – 8.60