Artist: The Voynich Code
Album: Aqua Vitae
Take a deep breath in; feel your diaphragm flatten, your lungs expand and your ribs move up and out. Feel air fill your lungs, and the fluids of your body moving to accommodate the vast—nigh immeasurable—number of physiological reactions occurring inside your body at that moment. Take a moment and hold that air in your lungs, feeling yourself change and grow on a molecular level with every millisecond. At that moment, you are full of life—more than just life, but the essence of it. And just as your body is brimming with vivacious splendor, such is the aptly named, game-changing piece of progressive deathcore mastery that is Aqua Vitae by ludicrously technical and marvelously unique Lisbon-based act, The Voynich Code. Laden with breathtaking moments of progressive splendor that contract with seconds that morph into minutes of skull-splitting aggression, Aqua Vitae is the summation of the trials and tribulations that define what it is to be truly alive. It is both anabolic—building monuments to metal mastery like a kid with Legos—and catabolic; crushing the listener beneath megaton breakdowns and ruthless, scathing riffs both. While they might not have the reputation they deserve, Aqua Vitae is a release that proves The Voynich Code are a band that fans of progressive music won’t be able to live without.
Aqua Vitae has moments where it streams along as subtly as a brook; a cohesive, calmed babble—but these moments of placidity are few and far between amid the tidal waves of titanic aggression that The Voynich Code compose so well. From the first snappy snare hits of “Aurum,” through “Delusion” and “Born to Suffer,” percussionist Euler Morais is monstrous in both mix and percussive mastery. With a snappy, explosive kick drum that contrasts his sharp snare and flashy cymbals, Morais is incredible—nothing more, nothing less. Just about every track is a tremendous testament to Morais’ talent—“Behind the Mirror” is evidence of this, as is the incredible “King for a Day” and “The Weight of a Mortal’s Soul,” where Morais provides a punishing low end that rumbles ruthlessly with the help of the low, sludgy breakdowns and furiously fretted riffs from guitarists André Afonso and Vinnie Mallet. Afonso and Mallet give The Voynich Code the truly distinct sound that makes Aqua Vitae a unique and unruly force to be feared. With moments that sound like yesteryears Born of Osiris or Nexilva, but with other moments of much more djent-driven, progressive metal inclined shred and groove, channeling renowned acts like Vildhjarta meets Volumes’ Via. The result? Something that’s really none of those bands, but rather a chimeric blend of immense heaviness and brash, bold and beautiful work behind the fretboard. Afonso and Mallet combine those elements—crushing aggression and beautiful, sprawling soundscapes—to rope the listener in, only to beat them senseless with off-the-wall breakdowns and gritty grooves.
Just with their dazzling displays of instrumental prowess, The Voynich Code continue to inspire awe with their incredible vocal element. Frontman Nelson Rebelo provides raw, brash aggression that blends beautifully with Aqua Vitae’s moments of murderous heaviness, all while knowing when to hang back and let the band’s ethereal and atmospheric moments take charge. Rebelo is ruthless on “Aurum,” starting things off with—pun intended—a golden approach to aggressive, low and grisly growls. Meanwhile, songs like “Behind the Mirror” see his middle-range roar taking center stage, just as his shrill, piercing screams add zest and a sharp, cutting edge to the more lacerating numbers like “King For a Day,” where he works excellently with Andrew Patterson to punish the listener’s eardrums without remorse in a tag-team style terror-laden onslaught.
Rebelo’s range and energy fill out The Voynich Code’s dynamic, taking a little bit of the emphasis off of the (excellent) instrumentation to give the listener a well-rounded experience—and Rebelo et al do this in a variety of ways. First and foremost, there is the incredible amount of variety that defines Aqua Vitae—and if I haven’t made that clear by now, I should honestly just give it up; because this group blend multiple styles into a progressively tinted, spine-crushing and flesh-shredding chimera that won’t stop until it’s reduced the listener to bone. However, Rebelo adds versatility in two other ways; the most obvious is his range—while sprawls all over the growl, roar, belt, scream and shriek spectrum. Secondarily, however, he knows when to let Afonso and Mallet do what they do best, allowing the instrumentation to fully shine—something that takes a truly practiced and modest frontman to accomplish. The end result? A band well in tune with one another and with their own sound, creating a progressively-fueled juggernaut that is both brutal and beautiful in a way that most bands might work to make their goal, let alone be able to accomplish with such apparent ease.
For Fans Of: Erra, Born of Osiris, Nexilva, Architects
By: Connor Welsh