Review Summary: An incredibly enjoyable album of beautiful deftness and grace.
There is only room for a handful of ambient, post-rock/post-metal bands on my iTunes. A group of brilliant minds like Isis is needed in order to keep the genre from becoming wearisome because far too many bands think that slapping some watery delay on a lead line and backing it up with a pad and some unorthodox drumming makes good material. Granted, this really does sound decent eighty percent of the time, but making it great is a whole other challenge.
The Victor Ship are a young band based out in Los Angeles, California, and they’ve thrown themselves into this challenging genre with a noticeable air of confidence. Having recently cut their first full-length album, In Somnis Veritas, The Victor Ship are left only to hope that listeners such as myself are willing to dive into yet another ambient, post-rock epic of this sort. In my mind, the genre can be similar to technical metal in that I find myself wary of diving into a new album that, by its very nature, will take a significant amount of time to digest and may, in the end, prove to have not been worth the investment. Fortunately, In Somnis Veritas is an incredibly enjoyable album of beautiful deftness and grace.
This breed of project demands an acute sense of tone, and In Somnis delivers on all levels in this department. The guitars are gorgeously highlighted with delays and reverbs that never become over-powering or muddy. The distortions are crisp yet full and are greatly varied from song to song, which noticeably adds to the album’s dynamic. The bass is always clearly distinguishable, sitting very comfortably between a low rumble and trebly punch, and the drums are well recorded with good tone and level on the kick and snare. This album sounds great.
The Victor Ship incorporate a good deal of theatricality into their sound, introducing the album with a man musing about how the world has stopped dreaming (“they say dreaming’s dead…”) and how he has the intention of dreaming every day. The front half of the record is full of these voiceover moments, and the voiceovers are done with varying degrees of success. They mostly have a positive effect on the album, giving it a surreal, intellectual yet emotional edge. A newscaster gives reports on an aircraft downed by a meteor shower. A man theorizes about the technical nature of dreams (interesting how this album came out just before Inception) and so on. The acting and writing can occasionally come off a tad cheesy (“Hey, you a dreamer"” Man replies, “Yeah.”) but overall the voiceovers are a welcomed addition.
This album is mostly an easy listen in every way. The music never gets ultra-technical (the drumming, which is fantastic, is the most technical element) or heady, but the writing possesses a heightened sense of sophistication. Every song has at least one part that makes an imprint on the listener and stands out with breathtaking singular power. The Victor Ship has a good knack for getting things stuck in your head and this talent of theirs will be key to their success. Every member is markedly skilled with his respective instrument and every instrument is used well with countering guitar riffs, weaving bass lines and syncopated beats. Things don’t get heavy often, but when more abrasive, Underoath-esque guitar work is used it is done to great effect, and vocalist Dave Dorosh displays an astoundingly formidable screaming voice on tracks With Hope I Breathe and Open Eyes.
The vocals are the main (if only) area where the album suffers. Dorosh has an impressive voice, and he sings with plenty of conviction, but at times the tone can feel slightly melodramatic. He absolutely shines through most of the album’s length, but there are some weak moments like the cadence that closes out the otherwise beautiful track Amid the Roar. The song flawlessly builds to a crescendo that unfortunately falls flat due to weak (and somewhat pitchy) group vocals. Still, the vocal flaws are minor and easily forgivable.
In Somnis Veritas is an ambitious album that hardly ever bites off more than it can chew; a pretty marvelous feet for a full length debut from a band that is still on a local level. The album is on iTunes and I strongly recommend picking it up. If one were to buy single tracks I would suggest Amid The Roar, Of Claws And Wings, The Accident, With Hope I Breathe and Open Eyes, though the whole record is definitely worth purchasing. I will be watching this band closely and eagerly as they hopefully continue to write and further their presence in the Los Angeles music scene.