[HOT TRACK]Local rockers' output picture perfect, if a bit odd

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[HOT TRACK]Local rockers' output picture perfect, if a bit odd

There are many ways to categorize the local band Vassline: emo-core, metalcore, new-school hardcore or what have you. Fortunately for listeners and cruelly for reviewers, the band's new CD, "Portrait of Your Funeral," escapes an easy description. Vassline is loud and powerful, segues into calm interludes, and then blurs the two into a harmonic typhoon of sound.

The new album, like the first, begins with the sound of rain falling (to make sure we know they are brooding-artist types) and has the same poetic, morose lyrics that seem to have been written by a random word generator.

What's different this time is the addition of clear singing, if only from the backup vocals, which complement the main vocalist, who goes by the cute moniker "The Beast That Bugs Us All." Though the Beast tends to scream like the baby in "Eraserhead," the voices blend nicely.

Also new is the use of sampling; specifically, sound clips from the Mel Gibson movies "Mad Max" and "Braveheart." The clips are barely audible, though, so maybe it's a subliminal message that "not every man truly lives."

A standout is the second song, "Crane," which opens furiously, drops in tempo, then builds riff upon riff into a raging crescendo. "Crane" is Vassline at its best: Intense, angry, and almost unfathomable.

What solidifies the album, though, is the skill of the musicians, especially the guitarists "Axegrinder" and "Headcrusher." No track sounds rushed or is filler; each is meticulously crafted. The harmonic techniques complement the aggressive sound without watering it down. And aggressive it is -- this isn't a CD to buy for your parents or your girlfriend.

Vassline's sound is not wholly original. The riffs, and even the cover art, strongly resemble those of the American bands Poison the Well and Shai Hulud. This reviewer was anxious to get his hands on Poison the Well's latest album, only to be disappointed by its lazy compositions. But "Portrait" is no disappointment, and the artistry far exceeds that of its American kin.

But that artistry could isolate the band. Metalheads are unlikely to dig the poetry and melody, and music snobs might have a hard time appreciating the artistry behind the rage and noise. "Portrait," though, will stay in my CD player for a long, long time.

by Burke Josslin

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