“Ecliptic Vision” by Ecliptic Vision. Released July 7. Pre-order bundles available at eclipticvision.bandcamp.com
Three years ago, Syracuse-based Ecliptic Vision seemed to be just another heavy band in a state dominated by anything but, a standard fare death metal group in Upstate New York’s splintered scene of heavy bands dispersed from Troy to Buffalo.
The group’s first album—more of a bedroom project, really—was 2016’s “Dissimilar Dimensions,” a thrash-dominated collection of tracks that, more than anything, bludgeoned listeners more than drew them in. “Omphalos of the Void,” released a year later, was much more thought-out, with a technical proficiency unseen in their early work but still short of a certain “something”—heavy, but not distinctive, lacking a real voice of its own in a genre where chops mean everything.
But Ecliptic Vision has done a lot of growing up over the past several years. From the group’s first show together in front of roughly 10 people, the band has harbored a type of momentum most upstart groups in New York’s small community of heavy music could only dream of. In short order, the group has amassed a number of opening slots for legendary metal bands like Suffocation, Carnifex and, this past spring, locked in a coveted spot at the annual Finger Lakes Metal Fest.
“I definitely feel like the last year or two has just flown by playing shows that, frankly, we never thought we’d have the chance to play,” said Vincent Lawyer, the group’s drummer. “Not to go on a rant, but our first show was at the Warehouse, and there were probably about 10 people there, but we didn’t care—we were just stoked to have the opportunity to play our music out. To go from that to having the opportunities we’ve had, to play with some of our idols [...] there’s a huge list.”
Now established, the group is ready to step out in a real way with their third, self-titled album, representing a culmination of all the growth they’ve seen over the past few years. Released this past week, “Ecliptic Vision” marks the band’s entrance into uncharted sonic territory, demonstrating an evolved level of musicianship that, while impressive, does not overindulge to the point of not being memorable.
The signature “groove” that defined Ecliptic Vision from the band’s start remains present on the new album; however, the group introduces phrasings and a stylistic flair that make for more texturally intriguing compositions than the old school death metal stylings driving the band’s earliest work. The band seems to have truly found its sound, where the unapologetic aggressiveness of the first record—brutality for brutality’s sake—meets the technical strides made in their second record.
“The new material pushes a lot of boundaries we haven’t really explored before compositionally —even pushing boundaries of ourselves as musicians,” said Lawyer. “I would say for myself as the drummer, I wouldn’t say I did anything that was necessarily technically impressive from a death metal standpoint—it’s no secret to anyone who listens to death metal that things have a tendency to become so technical, or that people have to play ‘this fast’ or ‘that heavy,’ it starts to take away from the music.”
There are some marked elements that emerge—there are certainly overtones of more straightforward isotopes of heavy music, like old school death metal in a lot of the material—but there are some noticeable divergences into prog or groove.
“Anthropophage”—the title track, named for a mystic race of cannibals—hits you like a wall, strung together with a tension that inspires an anxiety and urgency that remains throughout the rest of the record. Other songs, like “Cosmocosm” and “Crux of Infliction,” harken back to the sound of the first record in a lot of ways, but with much more polish and flair. The peak of the album arguably comes on “Cephalic Anomaly,” with its sophisticated rhythms and the demonstration of musicianship representing the apex of everything the band has been trying to accomplish over the past few years.
The mix itself is decidedly cleaner and much more balanced than previous records. Unique to death metal, the band only has one guitarist in a genre where two dueling axemen—two interplaying leads or defined rhythm and lead guitarists—are often the norm. Ryan Caughey, the band’s guitarist and principal songwriter, will alternate between lead and rhythm, meaning the band’s bassist, Derek Ponton, often has to occupy a higher register in the sonic sphere to stand out, something he does effectively on the album.
Most important of all, the album represents two years of a band intent on honing its craft, working to produce something sophisticated and unique in a genre where both elements can be mutually exclusive. “Ecliptic Vision” is a true artistic statement for the band, where their signature sound has been distilled to the aspirational vision the group set for itself in 2017.
“One contrast to the E.P. I could say we had was we gave every part the same attention to detail, to give each the chance to evolve a bit and marinate,” said Lawyer. “We didn’t give the E.P. as much time to develop, and we definitely didn’t push ourselves as hard as we did for this record—not necessarily from a technical standpoint—but the material in this record certainly feels a lot more thoughtful and mature than the material on the E.P.”
“I feel like everything did come together perfectly this time,” he added.