The new album from Vertigo Steps is a release that immerses itself deeply inside you as you fall within its own thick expansive atmosphere and close enveloping sounds. Surface Light forges and instigates a full union and experience that leaves the senses empowered and alive whilst searching for a deep breath with which to fall under the mesmeric towering sounds again. The album is an enterprising and formidable release which brings essences of rock, metal, and progressive rock into a compulsive sky of melancholic atmospheres and warm emotive clouds that stir and incite the emotions.
Surface Light is the third album from the Portuguese / Finnish project which was formed predominantly as a studio project in 2007 by Bruno A. (Arcane Wisdom). The project grew with Finn Niko Mankinen (ex Misery Inc.) joining to give a core duo to the band whilst they also brought in guests for recordings. A debut self titled album in 2008 drew strong attention and praise with comparisons of Katatonia and Green Carnation passed upon the music it brought forward. This was followed by equally acclaimed second album The Melancholy Hour in 2010 which again saw not only more guests alongside the duo to realise the songs but returning producer Daniel Cardoso, a man who is involved with so many impressive releases everywhere you turn, to add again brings his impressive production touch and drums skills to Surface Light.
The new album once more involves guest vocalists to bring a depth and firm variety to the songs plus Cardoso with drums and bass as well as production. For Surface Light the band has called on the striking talents of Jan Transit (In The Woods…,Transit), Patrik Karlsson (This Haven), Stein R Sordal (Green Carnation, Sordal) and Sophie (Ugarit), alongside the excellent tones of Mankinen. The combinations are majestic and enhance and flavor each song as deeply as the thoughtfully crafted music that surrounds them.
The album opens with the dark but warm Vertigo Dawn, an instrumental with soaring vocal harmonies and a desolate breath that works itself in far beyond the ear as it leads in the outstanding The Hollow. The band immediately pulls one directly into its heart as a web of voices and evocative sounds touch thoughts as they wrap themselves gently but firmly around its recipient. A melancholic ambience pervades the body alongside the stirring guitar creativity and provocative additional female vocals. It is a large yet intimate sound and one which lingers long after its final emotive note, though taking the album as a whole each song is never long in being replaced by equally impactful and full songs.
The following Silent Bliss is a vibrant and energetic track which lifts the emotions with stirring eager riffs and melodies but keeps it always personal with insightful and impassioned quiet moments of calm and restraint. The song reminds of latter Comsat Angels though it is not obvious exactly why to be honest but the atmosphere and infectiousness of the emotions invoke the comparison. As the album progresses the diversity of the album is more than apparent within its thirteen affecting compositions.
The album as a whole brings a kind of undefined theme or feeling at least with each and every luxurious yet saddened song. It is a wonderful blend of vibrancy and warmth which enthralls and uplifts whilst stemming from a darkened heart wrapped in sorrow and under a dimmed light. The wonderful Tonight I Died, Tomorrow I’ll Live with its post rock/gothic tension, the excellent melodic rock Helsinki, and the impassioned Someone (Like You) with a melody that would suit any Bond film, all burn with a heavy yet glowing heart that makes the listen a complete and deep event.
With further delights in the rousing Zeppelin On Fire, the impressive and best track Schadenfreude, a song that has a life and world all of its own, and the closing The Porcupine Dilemma which feels like a conclusion pulling all before it into a final immense release of passion, the album is a tremendous example of songwriting. It is a statement of far reaching atmospheres brought from the melding of heavy and stirring sounds with emotive and ardent dark to light feelings by the band. Released via Ethereal Sound Works, Surface Light and Vertigo Steps is manna for any who revel in the likes of Katatonia, Green Carnation, Porcupine Tree, Opeth, and Anathema or basically intense melodic and passional music.