Vanishing Point - The fourth season 4/5

Reviewed: 12-7-07


1. Embodiment
2. Tyranny of distance
3. Surrender
4. Hope among the heartless
5. Gaia
6. I within I
7. Behind the open door
8. Ashen sky
9. One foot in both worlds
10. Wake me
11. A day of difference

Sometimes the globe is just too big and the distances are just too vast. Australia's Vanishing Point are a prime example. For a number of years now, the pride of Melbourne have been writing and recording top-notch, unique metal music that combines the liveliness of power metal with the introspection of progressive metal and the overt, unapologetic hookiness of melodic metal. That, and they're down-to-earth, totally cool blokes that you just want to sit down and have a beer with. They're the kind of act that audiences at the ProgPower festival (USA or Europe edition) would blow a gasket for, that established metal heavyweights would love to take on the road, and that should be required listening for discerning metalheads the world over. But that dastardly ocean and the accursed equator/hemisphere/geography get in the way once again, so these Aussie lads toil in relative obscurity.

That may change with the release of 'The fourth season', a fitting moniker for Vanishing Point's 4th full-length CD. Despite debuting a new rhythm section (and a ghastly new hairdo, in the case of one band member who shall remain nameless), this CD finds Vanishing Point refining their craft, honing their style, and tweaking their sound ever so slightly, all the while maintaining the quality level of 2005's 'Embrace the silence'. This CD strikes me a somewhat tighter, more focused platter than its predecessor, with the boys really homing in on the essence of their songs this time. Whereas 'Embrace the silence' was a sprawling, 70+ minute affair awash in 6-7 minute songs, 'The fourth season' features 11 tracks clocking in at a lean 49 minutes. Rather than technical chops and wacky arrangements, Vanishing Point have shifted their focus to showcase their songwriting this time around. And what a batch of songs! They're memorable, emotional, captivating journeys, lifted always by the soaring, emotive voice of Silvio Massaro and a seemingly endless supply of tremendously catchy choruses. Tunes like "Beyond the open door" and "Embodiment" easily rank among the strongest Vanishing Point songcraft ever, and demonstrate just how fantastic this band can be when everything comes together perfectly.

All of that said, and despite my unabashed fanboyism for Vanishing Point, I would be remiss not to express a few minor quibbles. For a band with no credited keyboardist (that slot having been vacant since the affable Danny Olding's departure a couple of years ago), the keys are awfully prominent in the mix. Obviously, it's a matter of personal taste, but I can't imagine how killer these songs would sound if the keys were turned down a bit and the Chris Porcianko/Tommy Vucur guitar work were cranked up a few notches. To be sure, the band did a fine job producing and mixing this effort themselves, but in the hands of a maestro like Tommy Newton the final product could be even better. Also, there are a few places (see the single "Surrender", for example) where Vanishing Point have adopted arrangements and production values that skirt a bit too close to "modern rock" radio for comfort. I don't blame the guys for wanting to court success (they've certainly paid their dues and sacrificed in untold ways), but the purist in me still recoils to hear a great band adjusting its sound, even in nearly imperceptible ways, in a manner that may make it more palatable to the masses.

For any fan of Vanishing Point's previous recordings, 'The fourth season' is a slam-dunk mandatory purchase. Those who enjoy thoughtful, high-quality melodic metal with progressive and power metal influences, exceptional songwriting, and amazing vocals will be enamored of 'The fourth season' as well. For me, this CD is a minor step down from 'Embrace the silence', but is still a welcome addition to Vanishing Point's discography. The legacy grows, and I'm proud of my Australian pals for delivering another smasher. As we say in the South, ya done good, fellas. And Chris, never fear: Our horns are up, way up.




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