Russian instrumental outfit Vespero is back with their latest effort entitled Surpassing All Kings. Although it's only been about two years since their last studio album Rito, the richly layered arrangements, stunning atmospherics and brilliant improvisational qualities of that record certainly raised the bar for ensuing releases. Not to mention the band received their fair share of critical acclaim for it as well.
So is Surpassing All Kings up for the task? Well the easy and quick answer to that is a resounding yes, and for a couple of reasons. Firstly, while the band's approach to how they selected the material was different this time around in that Surpassing All Kings marked the first time the group elected to record all new compositions instead of piecing together older sessions, the end result is an album that has a slightly more cohesive flow to it than its predecessor. Secondly, when a band has spent a good deal of time over the years slowly refining their sound as Vespero have, only the slightest tweaking is necessary to further develop it, so in that regard Surpassing All Kings certainly feels like a natural extension of Rito, with only a few minor variances.
Once again recorded by Alisa Coral (Space Mirrors, Psi Corps) the emphasis is back to delivering heaping amounts of long, spacey sounding instrumental passages and multi-shifting tempos, which are executed at the drop of a hat and with razor like precision, thus each composition feels like it's in a perpetual state of change. The light and shade element and how effectively they play the dark, brooding sections off of the lighter textures, is in my opinion the biggest reason why their music is so compelling and keeps the listener fully engaged from beginning to end. The early psychedelic Pink Floyd and jazz tinged, Space Rock/ Kraut rock influences are still in abundance throughout, but the vocal chanting for example on a track like "Serata" adds a bit of a Zeul like feel as well.
Surpassing All Kings proves that Rito wasn't a fluke and in all actuality it may be the stronger of the two albums. Once again these five supremely talented musicians have proven they are more than capable of giving you an hour's worth of stunningly complex and thought provoking music. My only issue here is that I can't give this disc a higher score and that's because when I originally reviewed Rito I gave it the maximum five stars. I didn't think they'd be able to top it, but in the end that's exactly what they've done, go figure.
1) Glass Rainbow (A Sign)
2) Salma Simiere (Cross and Crown)
3) The Tower (XVI)
4) Lino (Similar They Spake)
5) Serata (i.n.s.i.e.m.e.)
6) Glide (Like a Swan)
7) Sever (Surpassing All Kings)