VESPERO - The Four Zoas

Vespero - The Four Zoas

7 songs
70:09 minutes
***** *****


According to Vespero, The Four Zoas is their eleventh longplayer, but if you look up their discography on the Internet, you’ll notice that there are more than two dozen releases that have come out since the early days of the new millennium. While I liked their music from the beginning, there has been a trend with this South Russian band during the last few years. Not only that their last two records came out on the renowned Tonzonen label, but they even found the time to release two collaborative studio albums with Spanish guitarist Ángel Ontalva plus a live album, because why not?

And that brings us to The Four Zoas, a record the band has been carefully working on for the last two years. Their last albums were a little more concise, but here Vespero are pulling all the stops by offering their fans a seven-track album with a seventy-minute running time. In the past this exercise sometimes suffered from self-indulgence, but Vespero have matured over the years and can now keep a track interesting for as long as they want. Conceptually, The Four Zoas is about a prophetic book by the English poet William Blake, and while the concept may be hard to understand, the album is not, as Vespero are still an all-instrumental band.

The record begins with the twelve-minute-long Urizen, which starts out quietly enough before the guitar joins in and finally ends in an upbeat guitar and violin inferno. Despite its length, the song never gets old, because it has a great build-up that ends in a moving crescendo. The following Tharmas is also quite long and eight and a half minutes, but has a wholly different moods. There is a more spiritual feeling underlying, and one cannot help oneself loving the interactions between guitar and violin, although truth be told: all musicians do a terrific job! The thing about the songs on this album is: there are so many details just waiting to be uncovered that listening is always again an adventure. Tharmas has a middle part with acoustic guitar that reminds me of The Who’s Quadrophenia, before a mellotron joins in, giving it all a Crimsonesque prog feeling. Beulah is at five and a half minutes the album’s shortest track. It is mostly driven by a soaring violin melody, although it’s ending with a folkish recorder part. Luvah, at nearly nine minutes, features a string quartet, but what I really enjoyed most on this track is the distorted synth sound. The six-minute-long Urthona begins with a synth bass rhythm, but soon a distorted guitar joins in, and later a dramatic mellotron once again shows parallels to King Crimson. More instrumental finesse can be witnessed on LOS, nearly nine minutes long, before the album ends majestically with the twenty-one-minute behemoth The Emanation Of The Giant Albion, where the band obviously enjoys their never-ending psychedelic freak-outs. This long-track also features a guest guitar solo by the Restoned’s Ilya Lipkin.

I really liked Vespero’s collaborative albums with Ángel Ontalva, but enjoyed their last two regular studio albums even more. But on The Four Zoas, the Russians have surpassed themselves. Their brand is still psychedelic rock, but there is so much more to be discovered: progressive elements, post rock, space rock of course. Also this is more than just guys jamming together. There is real and intricate songwriting that allows you to add it all together like a puzzle. What ends up doing this the masterpiece it is is the wonderful vintage production that has a wonderful warm sound. There are hints of Gong, Bo Hansson, King Crimson, but if we’re being honest, Vespero have found their own sound already a long time ago, and it is always and again a stellar listening experience.

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