Vaultry – Eulogy – Album Review
I’ll start by saying this – there really aren’t that many bands out there with the courage to make a record like this. Regardless of any opinions I have on the music of Vaultry’s sophomore release/first full-length record Eulogy – you have to admire the courage and strength within this band that it would have taken to release this album. Let me tell you why that is…
In between the release of their first EP, Coven, and the writing of the songs on Eulogy, Vaultry lost their band-mate Chasen Fraser to a battle with cancer. I cannot…literally cannot…put into words what a champion Chasen must have truly been. I’ve interviewed Vaultry to coincide with the release of this record…and I fully recommend you check out what they had to say because they’ll put it into words much better than I ever could – but understand that Chasen had the courage to face death head-on. He co-wrote several of the tunes on Eulogy…including “Hospice” which was actually written in the hospice care facility at Royal Jubilee carefully overseeing Fraser’s well-being. I’ve examined this situation from about every angle I can think of and don’t think I possess even a tenth of the strength this guy would have had to have to be able to continue to create under such extraordinary and tragic circumstances.
As a result of Fraser having had so much to do with the writing of Vaultry’s new record, his spirit is attached firmly to everything we hear. Even the songs that were written once Chasen had passed-on deal with his death – and you get the raw emotion, feelings, thoughts & questions of the remaining band members throughout their lyrics, atmospheres & attitudes in the music. Again…in such a humbled-time, they won’t say it themselves – but they should be extremely proud of finishing this record and doing justice to Fraser’s legacy by putting everything they had into every moment.
While the new songs take their music in different directions than they’ve explored in the past, the focus is sharper than it’s ever been for Vaultry, resulting in an impressively cohesive record that lays it all on the line. Bleeding raw emotion, heartbreak, loss and pain…knowing the backstory to Eulogy makes this record one of the most haunting and real listening experiences you’ll ever have, straight-up. As they’ll go on to explain through their opening-cut/title-track “Eulogy,” again in much better ways than I can through words here myself – ‘we live in the hearts we leave behind.’ Comforting…real…and true – “Eulogy” sets the standard quickly through its haunting, melodic and forlorn beginning as the music strengthens, surrounding singer Leith Hynds’ powerful vocals. With backup-vocals that crawl powerfully into the mix like a full chorus of spirits and souls, “Eulogy” – is incredibly expressive; between its initial intro and explosive ending, this song makes an immediate statement for the tone of the record and solid impact on us as listeners.
“Ghost Writing,” the lead-single from Eulogy, also puts a spotlight on what you could consider to be the next evolution of the Vaultry sound. As discussed in our interview with Vaultry – they’ve added to their lineup with new members Damian Anthony (Guitars) and Skye Mclean (Drums) on their first Vaultry record respectively; we’d seen their debut previously with the release of the non-album single “No Victory” prior to the release of Eulogy at the end of last year. Point being – I’m sure there’s some credit deserved for the two new players of Vaultry also having a lot to do with their shift in sound towards a brighter & more melodic sound as well. “Ghost Writing” is a wicked example of the band in full-swing and embracing that new-side of themselves; for fans of the last record, fear not – this progression of sound that Vaultry has sought out is one they’ve also conquered confidently. The guitars on “Ghost Writing” come at you with serious energy…and as if challenged, the drums respond as the track plays-on. Great melody and vocals in Leith’s vocals…I like where he sits in the mix a lot and think it says a lot about how well Vaultry knows their sound internally – Leith is enveloped pretty firmly within the mix of “Ghost Writing” – and his band knows bloody well that when he wants those powerful vocals, notes and tones to break through, he will. And he does. Solid switch into the hard-stuff in the bridge of “Ghost Writing” that shows the band certainly hasn’t lost their edge – they’ve just chosen to refine it.
“Wildfire” sounded immediately impressive to me. Love the tone on the lead guitars and the way their scattered notes bled right into the atmosphere…drums again stand out for their intense complexity and enormous sound – but it’s the bold definition in the transitions and parts written for “Wildfire” that truly stand out through their powerful execution of this cut. Even bringing in the string-sounds! Who doesn’t love themselves some strings right? Excellent ideas in the music and especially in the vocal melodies that fuel the verse, chorus and pretty much every surrounding moment they choose to invade whether backup or lead. The mix on them is equally strong…they’ve been enhanced with effects from the sounds of it…but in all the right ways that have the vocals contributing to the sound just as much as an instrument as they do to deliver the words themselves. Smart writing in the drums of “Wildfire” – if they were testing their new drummer Skye on this cut, they sure kicked his tires to make sure the wheels wouldn’t fall off. They’ve got serious crunch and precision…he certainly stays busy back there but the result is some extraordinary punch added to the Vaultry sound. Real credit to Hynds as well – the vocal-melodies he’s written into this tune take a noticeable amount of skill to flip to his falsetto and instantly back into lines that require every inch of power he has to give…and he pulls it off flawlessly.
Smart additions run through songs like “Wildfire” with its strings, or like “The Devil & The Deep” with its strong piano-hook that pulls you into its beginning. Not even kidding – that’s a powerful melody for such a simplistic set of notes; proving that music can be about placement, emotion and tone – it’s that same set of simple keys that also lead “The Devil & The Deep” to victory. Don’t get me wrong…I really dig the vocals in the gang-style chorus where they get huge…I dig the Hynds semi-spoken word ending to this track as well and the grit/raw-edge it has – but I kept coming back to how incredible a difference the tiny keyboard addition has made to the music for Vaultry on this track. This band of five from Victoria, BC sure understands how to create wildly entertaining music that has real depth and explore each idea to its borders and beyond in inspiringly progressive ways. There are multiple transitions and parts that make a massive impact on your ears…love the guitars/breakdown around the three-minute mark and the way they bring this song home at the end. Mix is spot-freaking-on and production is really making sure that everything fits exactly where it should on Eulogy…this is the way to properly tribute & salute a fallen friend.
And so we come to the epicenter of the record…the song called “Hospice,” co-written with Chasen in the Royal Jubilee hospice facility…and it is TOUGH to not get completely crushed by the lyrics of this cut. I’ll say this…like many an album-opus…you can hear that there is more struggle in the care of the approach and attempt to get this one entirely right…and no doubt, it’s an important song. The poetic nature of the narrative that flows through the lyrics corresponds smartly to the wandering nature of “Hospice” – which musically serves more as the vehicle to get these words out once & for all. For us as listeners…Vaultry takes us in multiple directions on “Hospice” that can at times nearly be difficult to keep up with…there is after all, a TON to say within this song and some of the most impressive and impactful lyricism on the record in this tune, and as a result they bring you all over the map until they’ve said what needs to be said here. The words are deep into the mix of “Hospice” throughout the verse, echoing that lethargy of energy no doubt experienced in Fraser’s time at the care-facility…but the way those words rise-up in the pre-chorus and come together in the chorus itself gives an inspiring power to the words and story that make “Hospice” hit its mark.
Lyricism continues to shine on “Cold Tea,” which an insightfully accurate and articulate description of what those moments are like after someone we love is no longer with us. “Cold Tea” becoming a metaphor for just how frozen in time we can become and how while we search for the words to describe how we feel, the contents of that cup become colder & colder. It’s one of the most subtle, honest and raw insights into the mindset of Vaultry on the entire record, but at the same time incredibly powerful. It’s a given that the major events we shared with people will still remind us of them long after their gone…but it’s truly always the smallest reminders that can trigger the most gigantic flood of tears. The intimate moments along the way that bond us together as friends for life and long beyond are examined brilliantly & fearlessly here…the music is equally powerful and haunting in behind the words of “Cold Tea” – but for me, the lyrics and expressive nature of the vocals stole the show on this one.
Composition, music and sound-wise…”A Letter To A Dead Friend” was audibly amazing to listen to, 100%. I’d be interested to know the entire history of influences on Vaultry in terms of what they listen to…I’ll have to ask them over beers one day; point being – there are a ton of influences you can hear on the sound of “A Letter To A Dead Friend” that would long pre-date the birthdays of any band member in Vaultry! The modern-day twist to the overall sound is still noticeably their own…but those harmonies echo some of the smoothest & best in the pop/rock sound of the initial explorations of prog-rock and the late-80’s. Normally if I’m dragging the 80’s into it…that’s not a good thing…today it is – there’s a classic edge that they use to the vocals on this cut in the grip of the chorus & harmonies that really works. The guitars are outstanding surrounding the pound of the drums and rumble of the bass from Josh Christensen on this cut…the dynamics of its contrasting ideas & sounds has “A Letter To A Dead Friend” becoming one of the largest in range. Every time Leith sings “Where do I begin?” to start the chorus…you feel the genuine raw power and savage emotions that come with the question itself – amazing.
I’d almost be inclined to suggest they used a machine to do the drums for “Painted In Grey” had I not seen Mclean’s abilities for myself up close & personal when he was still on the throne for This Day Burns…believe me, I know he’s got the skills to pull off the intricate work as intense as it comes through on this cut. Smart use of keys and guitars…I dig the transitions and intense timing; it’s slightly less accessible to the widespread audience than the others are by comparison without a doubt – but I think fans of where Vaultry’s been and where they’re going will get this. It’s a demanding tune to play as musicians…I thought the way that “Painted In Grey” ended was extremely strong…and perhaps it was that it was in what I’d consider to be the toughest spot on the record led it to have less of an impact on me than the other tunes on the album…still a good song, but by comparison to the meaty material on this record, it’d be tough for them all to stand-out. Let alone in between “A Letter To A Dead Friend” and the atmospheric-meets-ferocious sound of “Communion” following right after. “Communion” is altogether rad…Vaultry takes on a range of styles and sounds here once again; but notice how no matter they sound or whatever style they take on, the power and focus is truly there. Leith sounds incredible on “Communion” and delivers in a multitude of approaches to the vocals in a final toast to Chasen. So many moments of this song will bring the chills right to your spine…what a salute…what a tribute…what raw & real expression! “Communion” communicates the sincerity in the midst of even its most pounding chaos and extreme sounds – this is how you truly honor a friend. Whether it’s been Bradford Davis or their newest guitar-player Damian Anthony – the guitars deserve a ton of credit for keeping the crunch in this record. I LOVED the way that they sounded in the opening of “Communion” – but even more-so when they pack their most massive punch as the song crashes into its two-and-a-half minute mark…absolutely inspiring track to listen to overall. Though the details in the lyricism are intensely bittersweet – you’ve again, gotta appreciate the strength it must have taken the band to get all this out with as much focus, power and passion as they have…cause they nail it as hard as they can to the chorus of “Communion” with the grittiest conviction and rawest emotions fully on display.
Vaultry ends Eulogy with a song that they arguably couldn’t have written way back in the early days of the band or during the era of the Coven EP, putting the finest refinements on their new sound right at the end of their new record with “Blindfolds.” Don’t get me wrong…if that was the direction in sound they’d chosen back then, they could have attempted something lighter like this and no doubt pulled off something close to it – but the band that is now is no longer the band they were…and “Blindfolds” shows that progress and maturity of Vaultry’s experience and time in music to a perfect tee. I’m a melody & slow-jam guy for the most part…I like heavy themes and the raw brutality of emotion…a song can revolve entirely around a pure idea to communicate the most intricate parts of its central idea and really come out shining like this one does. They don’t get crazy, they don’t overdo it in any way, shape or form…Vaultry actively takes you in the opposite direction and sets you down gently with “Blindfolds.” Lyrically as incredible and real as any you’ll find on Eulogy – the scaled-back nature of their final track really brings out a sense of comfort and closure to this particular chapter.
Completely commendable effort from Vaultry here; as I mentioned during their interview, I feel like the leap they’ve taken with their music and sound is one that they can reasonably ask their fans to take along with them – this is a logical progression to their evolution of sound that certainly works in their favor. They’ve done an incredible job on what’s one of the most personal, raw & revealing records you’ll ever hear in your life…they’ve put themselves out there with the most exposed emotions and feelings you’ll find contained on a record. The memories and the music will continue to exist…and Fraser’s legacy in Vaultry will always have an impact on their future; as they so eloquently and passionately put it best themselves – ‘we live in the hearts we leave behind.’ I’ve known this band to always be reliable for great music…but it’s an album like Eulogy that serves to sincerely earn & secure my respect for their players right along with it.
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