REVIEW: Vice & Virtue – Beneath Starry Skies & Raging Oceans [2014]


Artist: Vice & Virtue

Album: Beneath Starry Skies & Raging Oceans


It doesn’t take much time on this planet to realize that life is all about balance—moderation, as they say, is key. With the creation of something beautiful, there is the destruction of something equally magnificent; with death, there is life. Newtonian physics at least had that much right when it was declared that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. However, for anyone not looking to re-live the horrors of their eighth grade physics course, there is South Florida’s latest-and-greatest post-hardcore act: Vice & Virtue. Even a glance at their name—or the name of their debut full-length, Beneath Starry Skies & Raging Oceans—gives the listener a vivid image of the album’s content; a perfect balance of aggression and passion. Beneath Starry Skies & Raging Oceans is an amalgam of the heaviest and most ethereal elements post-hardcore has to offer—with metallic, lacerating riffs, berating, brutalizing breakdowns and moments of serene calm that will take the listener’s breath away, Vice & Virtue is a dynamic band that provide an immersive experience that will keep the listener thoroughly engaged.

Beneath Starry Skies & Raging Oceans is an instrumental masterpiece—a veritable soundscape of…well, starry, serene skies and choppy, crushing tidal waves of punishing heaviness and metallic aggression. Percussionist Wil Lanagan is a forced to be reckoned with—pummeling the listener into submission with quick fills and snappy, precise snare cracks, yet still providing airy, atmospheric moods and settings with immense, splashy cymbals and looming, full toms. “Destroyer” is a devastating example of Lanagan’s penchant for punchy, strong percussion—while “Sincerity in Black and White” and “& Raging Oceans” display his dynamic ability to provide cavernous, full space for guitarists Chad Baker, Nicholas Scott and John Zwisler to roam. Throughout the entire album, Vice & Virtue’s cerebus-like three-headed house of hectic, intense fretwork is constantly engaging and completely crushing. The group’s trifecta of terrifyingly precise riffs, chugs and hyperambient harmonization is a force to be feared, as it swallows the listener whole and completely ravels them in organized chaos and carefully written dissonance. “Ocean of Trees” is a stellar example of the band’s brilliant ability to smoothly flow from abrasive, angry energy into soothing, ethereal ambience at the drop of a hat. The beginning of the track sees Lanagan—aided by the booming basswork of Jordan Hendrick—beating away at the listener’s head, as Baker, Scott and Zwisler stack layer after layer of dizzying riffs on the listener’s back. However, before too long, the pressure built up by the track’s frenzied beginning bursts, giving way to an almost zero-gravity like chorus, where clean singing is backed by serene fretwork and gallant percussion, more akin to Circa Survive than the track’s Downtown Battle Mountain-esque beginning.

To compare the band to Dance Gavin Dance’s earlier work is to bring to light Vice & Virtue’s immense, extraordinary vocal element. Beneath Starry Skies & Raging Oceans is home to a dual-vocal onslaught that is indeed reminiscent of Dance Gavin Dance at their heyday, or Ice Nine Kills’ earlier works. Clean vocalist Josh Miller is a prodigy—an undiscovered great—who can sooth even the most ravaging beasts with his otherworldly croons as heard on “Wolf King Part II” and the beautiful “Beneath Starry Skies.” However, to counter Miller’s magnificent voice, harsh vocalist and guitarist Nicholas Scott lets loose with screams that range from shrill to gruff, and hitting many tones in between. Throughout the rollicking jaun “Destroyer,” or the immense “Neverender,” Scott screams his lungs into oblivion, ripping open the listener’s ribcage with heart-rending passion and unbridled fury that combine beautifully with Miller’s soothing singing to establish an extraordinarily effective “fire-and-ice” dynamic. While Scott’s sinister shouts and shrill screams cut, scrape and sear the listener’s skin, wearing away their mental defenses, Miller builds them back up with beauteous, mesmerizing singing that hammers home hooks so catchy that they put the common cold to shame.

From the heavy-soft instrumentation to the harsh-smooth vocal elements, every aspect of Vice & Virtue’s album Beneath Starry Skies & Raging Oceans combines to create the most masterfully comprehensive and dynamic post-hardcore album since Circa Survive’s Junturna or…well, any Dance Gavin Dance album. Parts of the release are almost unbearably heavy, with “Destroyer” disemboweling the listener with straightforward brutality and drum-heavy energy. However, other parts of the album are just the opposite—with “& Raging Oceans” ending with one of the most passionate displays of unshielded emotion that 2014 has seen so far, using a female guest vocalist to pluck at the listener’s heart strings like a harpist, elucidating the most pure and powerful feelings of the entire 50-minute long release. Beginning with intense, acrid aggression and ending with spirit-soothing emotion—and covering every sentiment between—Beneath Starry Skies & Raging Oceans is more than just a diverse album, but a dynamic experience that begs to be had.

This world is one of extremes—a planet defined by tragedies and miracles alike—and Vice & Virtue certainly align themselves with the latter. Beneath Starry Skies…is an entrancing experience that has a little something for everyone—making it a monstrous release for post-hardcore as whole.



For Fans Of: Circa Survive, UnderOATH, Dance Gavin Dance, A Lot Like Birds

By: Connor Welsh