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Vindictiv - Ground Zero (9/10) - Sweden - 2009

Genre: Progressive Metal
Label: Escape Music
Playing time: 78:11
Band homepage: Vindictiv

Tracklist:

  1. Modern World
  2. Ground Zero
  3. Reach Out
  4. Golden Gate
  5. Venom
  6. Tweedledum & Tweedlede
  7. I’m Back Home
  8. Martha’s Song
  9. Overshoot Day
  10. No Matter What
  11. The Sacrifice (Japanese Bonus Track)
Vindictiv - Ground Zero

At present, there are two little-known Swedish Prog bands that deserve mainstream success. The first is the bombastic, sharp, ultra-slick SEVENTH WONDER, and the second is the more low-key, “airier” VINDICTIV. Both bands play an excellent type of Progressive Metal rich with melody, perfecting marrying technical wizardry with catchy choruses. SEVENTH WONDER released their outstanding “Mercy Falls” album last year, so now it’s VINDICTIV’s turn to release a highly-anticipated follow-up to a critically acclaimed album.

 

The first thing one notices about “Ground Zero” is that the production is leaps and bounds above VINDICTIV’s eponymous debut. The debut had a sharp, jarring quality to the sound, which, truth be told, wasn’t that bad, but “Ground Zero” smoothes everything over, giving the album a very cohesive sound, and it’s hard to go back. Listening to a comparison of the two albums is like night and day, so kudos to producer/guitarist/band leader Stefan Lindholm.

 

One other change is that former Yngwie Malmsteen belter Göran Edman, who sang all the songs on the debut, now shares the mic with Oliver Hartmann (AT VANCE), who takes over for three songs (“Reach Out,” “I’m Back Home,” and the bonus track “The Sacrifice”). Hartmann’s contributions are a nice addition, with “Reach Out” in particular being a standout track, and the bonus track “The Sacrifice” is good enough to be an actual album track.

 

Still, Edman’s voice dominates “Ground Zero,” and though he did a great job on the debut, it sounds like he’s even managed to improve since then (and it’s only been a year!). He experiments with his voice much more, injecting some menace into it on “Tweedledum & Tweedlede,” trying something of a Rock voice on “No Matter What,” and even growling a bit on the title track. He can still hit the high notes gracefully, of course, as he spends most of his time doing just that.

 

The choruses on “Ground Zero” are just as catchy as those on the debut, with “No Matter What,” “Overshoot Day,” and “Reach Out” taking top honours. Lindholm is excellent at penning a tuneful melody, and Edman performs them excellently. The album is also impressive as a technical showcase, but therein lies my only major complaint about the album.

 

See, the debut was forty-five minutes long, and there wasn’t a song longer than six minutes (“Hymn To Desdemona” wasn’t even three minutes long).  It was concise, cut with precision, and the songs were only as long as they needed to be.  By comparison, “Ground Zero” is over half an hour longer than the debut, and only one song is under six minutes (the longest song on the debut, “Living Colours,” has the same running time as “Tweedledum & Tweedlede,” the shortest song on “Ground Zero”). All of the extra time comes from über-long intros and dozens of guitar/bass/keyboard solos. While this may be a Progressive Metal release, all the extra solos and interludes and intros and outros make “Ground Zero” needlessly long, and some of the less catchier tracks (“Martha’s Song,” “I’m Back Home”) felt like a chore to get through.

 

“Ground Zero” makes many small refinements to the formula the band used on their debut, adding in better production and more vocal variety, while still maintaining their status as a band full of virtuosi. The one thing that prevents “Ground Zero” from being a better album than its predecessor is its length, making it less accessible and, in certain parts, a bit difficult to slog through. Still, it’s a fantastic release for Metal fans who enjoy the marriage of Melodic Metal and Progressive Metal that seems to be prevalent in a number of Swedish bands now.

(Online July 3, 2009)

Mitchel Betsch



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