Vermilion – Flattening Mountains and Creating Empires

Flattening Mountains and Creating Empires

When you come across an album like Flattening Mountains and Creating Empires, it’s almost impossible to classify. Progressive rock is such a broad term for a group like Vermilion that it defies description at every turn. One moment they are indeed prog-rock, but the next they are classical, jazz, metal, math rock, or just plain noise – and sometimes they are all these things rolled up into one frenzied assault on the senses.
Flattening Mountains and Creating Empires is the group’s first full-length album, and it consists of four tracks that make up the total length of about 40 minutes. The tracks here have abrupt time changes, almost no vocals, and a dense sonic texture that clearly won’t appeal to everyone. Though the band uses the standard two guitars, drums, and bass set up the music these guys are creating is anything but ordinary.
Though the album could almost be viewed as one long, self-indulgent jam session, certain elements do stand out. The opening track and funny acronym for a band based in Seattle, “Frequent Universal Creations Keep Sound Eternally and Thoroughly Tasting Like Energy” truly has a bit of everything thrown in the mix. The song hiccups from unified to abstract and takes the listener on a 10-plus minute cerebral journey. Pachydermus, the longest track at over 12 minutes, is another standout. This one starts out with barely there strings (violin, viola, and cello) and then segues into a distinctive rock piece before erupting with rollicking guitar a la 70’s metal.
Vermilion is a group that fans of math and progressive rock be likely to really get into. They clearly do not prescribe to any standard musical formulas, but the foursome manages to keep it interesting at every turn. It’s also worth noting that it was recorded by influential indie engineer Steve Albini and has cover art done by Roger Dean (who is perhaps best known for doing cover work for groups like Yes). While having Albini and Dean’s talents enhancing the album, I think Vermilion would still have made a lasting impression on their own.