Vanishing Point – Dead Elysium Review

It looks like Olde Man Huck and I are carrying the entire prog-power burden on our creaky, arthritic shoulders these days. With Awake by Design and Assignment already offloaded, I’m lugging the new Vanishing Point opus to the finish line all by my aged lonesome. This long-running Aussie prog act has been silent since releasing Distant is the Sun way back in 2014 and I’d given them up for dead, but here they are with their sixth album Dead Elysium and a new drummer and bassist in tow. Time and lineup shifts aside, their sound and style hasn’t changed all that much. They still deliver highly melodic prog-power anthems with a strong hard rock sensibility that makes their output much more accessible than others in their chosen genre. Their style isn’t far removed from that of Evergrey or Pyramaze, and rather than bury you under reams of unusual time signatures and excessive noodle jerking, they rely on structural simplicity, mood, and hooks. This I appreciate, and I’ve always had a soft spot for their approach. Is that spot still soft in 2020?

The opening title track makes a long-time listener feel right at home. All the classic ingredients are here – crunchy riffs, glossy keys and most importantly, the excellent vocals of Silvio Massaro all check in. It’s the same kind of punchy tune they’ve been delivering forever, balancing heaviness and melody. It’s just catchy enough to stick on the first spin with room left over to flash some musical chops without getting too self indulgent. “Count Your Days” replicates this tried-and-true formula with similarly positive results. They aren’t pushing the boundaries of prog-power and their approach is a lot like what Full Force does, with Silvio adopting a rather Jorn-esque delivery, but it’s easy on the ears and the chorus sticks it firmly to the brain wall. “To the Wolves” could be added to any of the past several Evergrey outings without disruption, with Silvio sounding a lot like Tom Englund, and it works for these reasons. “Salvas” has a strong alt-rock sheen and features the album’s most catchy chorus, almost sounding like a Creed hit crammed through a prog-metal filter. It feels like it should be playing over some uber dramatic moment on a prime time TV show when lost lovers finally find each other again, and hey, I like sappy shit as much as the next Ruthless Steel Overlord.

The second half of Dead Elysium is less sticky and ear catching, though it isn’t bad by any stretch. “The Fall” is very much a radio rock tune given a prog-power makeover, and it works in the right lighting, sounding like Survivor circa Rocky IV.1 “Free” is a decent enough song but feels too long at 7-plus minutes, and “The Healing” is the least interesting cut on offer, feeling close to filler level. At just shy of an hour, Dead Elysium does feel overlong, and excising 1 or 2 of the lesser numbers would have been advisable. Another issue is that the choruses don’t all hit as hard as I’ve come to expect from Vanishing Point material. There’s a consistent quality but no song really blows my mind. They’ve long been masters at crafting catchy prog-power with deceptive depth, but this feels like their lightest and most rock-centric set of songs, seemingly without that reservoir of nuance and depth.

As usual, the Vanishing Point show revolves around the big vocals of Mr. Massaro. He has one of those voices that just resonates with you and though he doesn’t try to run the gamut of octaves, he always conveys power and gravitas. Original guitarist Chris Porcianko and newer axe James Maier use crunchy, beefy riffs to make the songs appear heavier than they really are, and come solo time they bring the technical thunder without overdoing it. Talent abounds at the 6-string position and there’s more than enough tasteful pluckery to satisfy. That said, these songs do feel stripped down and spartan at times, even by the standard of Vanishing Point’s past works. Orchestration and keyboards are generally kept to a minimum, which I like, but more adventurous playing would have been appreciated.

Dead Elysium shows Vanishing Point is still viable, even if things feel a bit underwhelming at times. This won’t be the album I reach for first when in the mood for the band’s material, but it’s a solid addition to a very respectable catalog. Nice to have you back, boys!

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: AFM
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: August 28th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. There’s no easy way out of that burning heart.
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