It seems I don’t get to review power metal all that much these days, though it was one of the reasons I was originally recruited by AMG in the first place (my official title was Assistant Chief Power Metal Weenie). Instead, it’s Rogga Johansson this, retro death metal that, yadda yadda yadda. Maybe that’s why it feels so refreshing to hear some genuinely solid power-prog from long running Aussie act Vanishing Point. Distant is the Sun is serious, prog-tinged power in the same vein as Vanden Plas and Anubis Gate, mixed with the hard rock ethos of bands like Cloudscape and Allen/Lande and adding the occasional touch of symphonic bombast. It’s super polished, mega melodic, slick, accessible and strives to be as catchy as possible without sounding too poppy. I’ve always liked these guys, but found them a bit uneven, but here they seemed to have upped their game and crafted a pretty uniform set of quality songs, with a few real powerhouse killers guaranteed to impress and earn oodles of replay value. It’s far from a perfect power platter, but they know how to charm the listener and keep them coming back for another spin, which I’ve been doing for several weeks.
Upfront I’ll concede this is a very front loaded opus, with the best five tunes running almost consecutively. “King of Empty Promises” is a clinic on how to do prog-power correctly, with first-rate playing, memorable writing and hook layered upon hook. It’s proggy but still linear, and designed to pull you in like flypaper. The title track is more of the same with a high emotion quotient and another big, addicting chorus. “When Truth Lies” is heavier, a bit more aggressive and in-your-face, but so catchy it practically has a butterfly net attached to it and Silvio Massaro’s slick, powerful vocals hit like a hammer, especially during the chorus.
“Deliverance Denied” shifts gears and sounds almost exactly like the recent Evergrey output, and Silvio sounds eerily like Tom Englund, especially come chorus time. The hits keep coming on the somber, moody “Let the River Run,” the brooding “Story of Misery” and the regal, grandiose “Pillars of Sand.”
Oddly, the only real dud is “Circle of Fire,” on which they managed to rope Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica) into contributing vocals. It’s such a flat, generic song that even Mr. Kakko’s considerable talents can’t make it interesting. Better, but still underwhelming is “Era Zero,” which is the fastest track on offer, but feels a bit too wishy-washy. Another issue is the overall length of the album, which runs slightly over an hour. As good as much of the material is, it feels too long. If they had chopped the weaker stuff out and kept it around 45-50 minutes, it would feel so much more vital and impressive. You simply don’t gain anything by padding the album length with weaker tunes.
As with their prior albums, the strength of Vanishing Point is Mr. Massaro and his pipes. He possesses a very versatile voice that sounds like a mix of Ray Alder (Fates Warning), John West (Royal Hunt) and yes…Michael Bolton (check out his belting on “Walls of Silence” for proof). He’s adept at morphing his vocals to fit the varying moods of the material and he always sounds impressive without having to force his mid-range up into the stratosphere.
He’s got some top-notch support from long time fretster Chris Porcianko and new axe James Maier, and together they dole out plenty of the melodic riffs, leads and harmonies we all crave. Though they excel at the melodic side of things, and never take the music into truly heavy waters, they wisely keep enough muscle in the riffing to keep things metal. Also standing out is the performance on the skins by Christian Nativo. Though he isn’t meant to be the focus of the music, his playing catches the listener’s attention and he’s always doing something interesting in the background. Tight stuff.
Probably the most consistent release of their career, Distant is the Sun is a rock-solid dose of melodic metal with a smart balance of prog and heaviness. This serves as a great appetizer for the upcoming Anubis Gate album and makes me want to hear a lot more of these guys in the near future. Good on ya!