Śūnyatā is 30 minutes of instrumental music that combines elements of progressive, technical and death metal together to form an engaging and thoughtful listening experience.
Atheist, Cynic and Death are the obvious reference points, with Vipassi, (who feature members of Ne Obliviscaris and A Million Dead Birds Laughing), taking these influences and bringing them up to date with all of the resources and experience that the 2017 music scene can offer. Modern influences such as Obscura, Psycroptic and Fallujah, are apparent in their sound too, for example.
With no real vocals, (for the most part at least), to anchor the listener’s attention or distract from the essential nature of the music itself, the band lay their creation open wide. Soft, haunting female croons, sighs and sounds do grace the tracks here and there, once again recalling Fallujah in places. Growls of a sort briefly appear on Elpis, adding another facet to the band’s delivery.
The tracks are nuanced, creative and full of technical dexterity and inventive extremity. With jazz and avant-garde elements spicing up the delivery, and the soft wordless backing vocalisations, Śūnyatā is very much about creating atmosphere with complex technicality juxtaposed against calmer, dreamy backdrops.
The technical nature of a lot of the playing here is balanced against the desire to provide an emotive atmospheric base for the listener to get their teeth into. Technicality without this side of the music would not make for as engaging a listen, and thankfully the band are full cognisant of this. As such, these songs are as much about connecting with the listener through complex aggression as they are about showing off what the musicians are capable of.
These songs really do have a lot of content, and they’re layered with depth and nuance, both of which work alongside their more obvious attributes to provide a fulfilling listening experience. Music that’s largely instrumental can easily fall short of the mark a lot of the time, but Vipassi have so much value to offer on Śūnyatā that I can easily sit through this album time and time again just soaking it up and getting lost in the labyrinthine soundscapes that the band create.
Not perfect, but very close. Highly recommended.