Vera : Discovery of the month! What a peerless debut! Fans of Green Carnation, Winds, Katatonia and even Opeth must surely read on and cannot miss Vertigo Steps. This is the project of the accomplished Portuguese Bruno A., once active in the cult band Arcane Wisdom. To perform his inventive musical ideas he made an appeal to musicians from Norway, Finland and Portugal. The Finn Niko Mankinen (Misery Inc.) is responsible for most of the vocals with his warm, melancholic voice, but also Rui Viegas and André Vasconcelos (both quondam singers of Arcane Wisdom) put in a proper word, especially in rougher areas. Alexandre Ribeiro (Desire) plays fretless bass and producer Daniel Cardoso does a great job on drums while we can hear him on piano and backing vocals as well. Stein R. Sordal (bass player Green Carnation) sings the magnificent 'Synapse (Sleepwalking Metaphorms)'. All this under the guidance of Bruno himself who mainly plays guitar and keyboards, but he composed all these intense songs as well.
This approach reminds me a bit of Amaseffer, a debuting band that released a stunner in 2008 too. But this music is most congenial with Green Carnation. But mark you, it is not a copy. From the very outset with the instrumental esoteric 'Steps To Vertigo' I realize that this is going to be something special. One may call this a cinematic, ominous intro with ethereal female vocals (Sophie), the kind of music that makes you smoothly dream about desolate vast sceneries and the purity of nature. But there is 'Vultures In My Dying Bed': steadily rocking and catchy, but also graced with a perfect sound to do justice to this multilayered music (there are samplers and electronics sometimes for a slightly ambient touch). It continues with the melancholic 'The Swarming Process' and 'Fire Eaters'. Both accessible songs with depth. A piano fragment here, a captivating guitar solo there, all is going the way I love it. 'Serpent's Irony' starts with shrill guitar sounds, almost verging to the modern Machine Head sound, and this up-tempo and quite heavy song offers any female background vocals in the midst of its tumultuous nature.
Time for contemplation with 'Scarheart'. Acoustic guitars and keyboards prevail in this quiescent ballad-like song which is sung in a genuine way. We are roughly shaken awake by 'The Gruesome Smile'. This is something completely different. Cathartic screams, ponderous riffs and howling solos make it a dramatic, ultimate powerful piece of music. There are a few calmer parts, but generally they give them hell. We catch our breath again during the instrumental 'Pain Inc' with a moving guitar solo touching your very soul. The beginning of 'I Of The Storm' - a track dating from the Arcane Wisdom period - suits very well with it, showing a slightly progressive tinge with spoken parts and flute, but it surprises you by its incredible outburst. This song is like a whirlwind and the multifarious vocals make an absolute stunner of it. And what about Green Carnation member Stein? They saved it for the last, as the icing on the cake. It undeniably showcases the spirit of the mighty In The Woods/Green Carnation era. 'Synapse' is a sublime, emotive track vocally and lyric-wise. Melancholy and despair united. Epilogue: although I did my utmost, this music cannot be caught in words. This is music you have to undergo, become part of it. Far away from all nuisance around you, comfortably descending into your own deepest inner reflections. This is a disarming occlusion of a musical year.