There was a young lady of Wight,
Who traveled much faster than light,
She departed one day,
In a relative way,
And arrived on the previous night
The limerick above illustrates the practical impossibility faced by those wanting to wind back the clock and travel to the past. Physicists have long grappled with the enigma that is time travel and while jaunting to the future remains plausible, going the other way is all but an impossible dream. Pfffff, impossible to a lab coat-wearing egghead, maybe, but not to Finland’s Rivette, who have stuck two fingers up the nose of relativity with their debut EP, In Vertigo. Channeling the NWoBHM scene with a dusting of (ugh) Dire Straits, Rivette built a WABAC machine of gleaming chrome capable of whisking us back to a time of untrammeled hair, wanton sex and jeans tight enough to grind the family jewels to dust.
Guttural vocals, tortuously distorted guitar, pounding drums, none of these things you will find herein as Rivette swagger and swoon to a hard rock rhythm focusing instead on hot licks and melody. “Arms Of Lightning” announces its intentions with a very Lemmy-esque bass line and vocalist/guitarist Esa Pirttimäki belting out a hearty “Rock ‘n’ roll!” Infectious, crackling with energy and straddling the line between Mötörhead and Budgie, the track is a beer-soaked t-shirt with the words “Here for a good time, not a long time” printed all over it. The energetic buzz and fuzz continues on “Limelights Of Fire” but here the tone is closer to Kill ‘Em All on the leads and Rob Halford on the vocals. While “Arms of Lightning” and “Limelights Of Fire” pouts and sneers with bad-boy bravado, “The Sting” (or “The String Master” as my promo track was labeled, strangely) is the song you’d introduce to your parents. Brooding, pensive and heady with emotion, “The Sting” slows the tempo a tad allowing the rich interplay between Pirttimäki’s leads and F.F. Nieminen’s organic bass to bask in the spotlight. It’s a well-crafted track that is judiciously varied with its tonal shifts that at times reminds me of Angel Witch, especially in the way that it feels you are being told a haunting story rather than experiencing a song.
I’m less engaged by “Outrun The Night” and “In Vertigo,” the two tracks that bookend the EP, as the rather rote nature of the performances leaves the music sounding less like it’s inspired by the classics and more like it’s being performed by a cover band trying to make ends meet at boozy work functions [Hire these cats for the AMG X-Mas party! – Steel Event Planner]. I don’t doubt the sincerity of Rivette and the trio convincingly prove their chops over the circumspect 24-minute runtime, but at times there’s a nagging feeling that the band built the tracks from an IKEA catalog as it’s missing something.
I feel some of the blame lies with how In Vertigo was engineered. The instruments are mixed well, every note is given room to breathe but the overall sound is glossy and overproduced, leaving the music devoid of character and warmth. The stunted dynamic range doesn’t help matters either, adding unnecessary bite to the high frequencies that only serves to keep me from losing myself in the moment. For a band seeking to stoke the fires of nostalgia, it is somewhat ironic that the EP is saddled with the blight of a modern production.
Rivette have everything they need in their rose-tinted toolbox to develop their sound into something memorable and unique but doing so requires more than mining music’s halcyon days. When they’re ready to ramp up to a full-length release a focus on a more inimitable sound that uses classic inspiration as leverage rather than mirroring what’s come before could produce something special. In Vertigo is a pleasant blast to the past but the problem with nostalgia tourism is that you are left yearning for the music of your youth rather than settling for a well-meaning but pale imitation.