Mother Nature is a fickle mistress. Without warning, beautiful, sun-drenched days can lead to draught, and refreshing spring mists can intensify into torrential—if not biblical—floods. However, worst of all is the potential for havoc that Mother Nature brings about during the winter months—the threat for each fresh coat of frost to ice the moisture in your lungs or to turn whimsical, wondrous snowfalls to avalanches. Mother Nature reigns supreme over these elements, wielding them as she wishes—and until Vitja, she alone used them with lethal efficacy. Echoes, the band’s debut full-length release shows them tediously stacking detail after detail atop one another, before long crafting a towering monolith to the perfection of groove-laden progressive metalcore. This bastion to metalcore mastery doesn’t last for long, however, as without warning, Vitja take this carefully crafted snow globe of meticulous detail and painstaking intricacy and give it a hefty shake, causing an avalanche of gargantuan proportions, burying the listener in a crushing, catastrophic listening experience.
Echoes starts with a chill in the air—a fogging of the listener’s breath against a windowpane, or a subtle coat of frost covering the landscape. Before long, the cold intensifies, morphing into a tangible threat rather than just a seasonal nuisance. This is the very rudiment of Vitja’s icy onslaught on the listener—a constant, belligerent, battering cold. “Sleeping in Slow” makes brilliant use of incessant, hammering percussion that fills the listeners lungs, and like water turning to ice, expands. “The Selfish Giant” is similar in this regard, as even when both tracks take detours into ambience, the percussive element is constantly there, booming and bouncing, always allowing the listener something to bob their head to. However, when every element of Vitja’s wintery war machine is working in unison, the listener is so thoroughly gripped by their frigid intensity that they can hardly move. “Conversations,” alongside “Strange Noises” do this exceptionally, allowing bouncy, hard-hitting percussion to immobilize the listener whilst intricate, awe-inspiring fretwork turns their ribcage into an ice tray, freezing the organs within.
Without warning, there is snowfall—the bitter, aggressive cold manifesting itself, waging war on the listener. This takes form in the ability of Vitja to function as one well-tuned and synergistic unit, creating crushing heaviness from moments of serene beauty. “Imageless” is perhaps one of the best examples of this—as a subtle, stellar section of deceptive still descends rapidly into a chaos-driven maelstrom of crushing brutality. Bouncy, technical fretwork and elegant percussion disintegrate into blistering blast beats and chug-laden, downtuned intensity that takes Vitja’s charming, entrancing snowfall and turns it into a catastrophic winter weather warning. Slowly but surely, layer after layer of snow stack and build beside the listener, making it harder and harder to shovel their way out of the storm that Echoes is casting upon them. This intensity builds in parallel with the album, such that by the time “Strange Noises” works its way into “Eligia” and “Beside the Wires,” the listener’s only hope is to seek shelter from the storm, rather than try and wait it out in the freezing wonder-turned-wasteland.
“Strange Noises,” along with “Clutch at Straws” are the two best examples of Echoes working in syncope to turn Vitja’s tediously-crafted mountain of snow into a leveling, life-changing avalanche. Already jarring chugs and intense, dynamic songwriting is capped off by a stellar, intense vocal performance and electronic effects that add just the right amount of fresh, interesting atmosphere to crush the listener in a refreshing new take on an otherwise stagnant approach to progressive metalcore. There’s no denying that 80% of Vitja’s arsenal of grooves, shred and crush aren’t exactly the most unique thing to be heard—but that 20% of dynamic, breathtaking intricacy and innovative electronic sampling are enough to take a placid, run-of-the-mill winter scenario and shake it up, turning it into a full-fledged freeze. While this doesn’t make Echoes a touch slippery every now and again—rife with some repetitive riffing and a distinct lack of vocal variation—it becomes forgivable, for where Vitja focus whole-heartedly on their sound, it shines through, renovating progressive metalcore and freezing the genre to its very core; an effect many of the band’s peers would be lucky to inflct.
Having spent all twenty-one of my years in Michigan, I’m no stranger to both intense and mild winter storms—and Vitja’s Echoes is most certainly the former. Rife with technicality and chugged-out heaviness to accompany a marvelous array of awe-inspiring details and iced with a solid vocal performance, Echoes see the genre at it’s finest, even if the path they take to get there is one many bands have walked before.
For Fans Of: Nexilva, Volumes, Northlane, Structures
By: Connor Welsh