Houston-based progressive post-hardcore band Vox Vocis are no strangers to change. The group made a splash in their local scene in 2016 with their debut full-length In the Arms of the Sun, which drew from well-known prog acts like Coheed and Cambria and Closure in Moscow to create a dynamic, densely layered musical journey. Now, two years on from that album’s release, the band expands their reach and broadens their musical vision with the release of Star Meissa, one of the finest albums the genre has produced this year.
Opening track “Lion” immediately sets the scene, with vocalist/guitarist Alex Vaquera’s soaring, soulful vocals reminding one of some of the finest singers in the progressive music scene. “Enter the tragic child; a dream run past his eyes”, Vaquera sings, before the the band’s high-energy musical offensive begins in full force, complete with superb riffs by Vaquera and furious drumming by Zach Burton. What becomes immediately apparent is that this band has retained all of their technical prowess, yet also incorporated a greater ear for melody and hooks that lends Star Meissa immense replay value. The album’s push-pull between furious fretwork and soaring pop hooks is reminiscent of Blue Swan Records band Icarus the Owl, where every instrumental twist and turn is anchored in rock-solid songwriting foundations.
One of the best examples of this immensely enjoyable dichotomy is found on the track “Sleepy Puppy”, where a bouncy rock riff is complemented by the keyboard flourishes of Luis Cerda, and Vaquera gives the song its center with an instantly memorable hook. “Would I have stayed if I could change/Wake me with light; I’m staying in tonight” is likely to get firmly lodged into the listener’s subconscious, and the track overall is an excellent showcase of Vox Vocis firing on all cylinders.
Other tracks such as “Ghost to Give” further showcase the ways in which the band utilizes keyboards to give their compositions additional texture and atmosphere, one of the ways in which the band distinguishes itself from its progressive peers. Bassist Cheetah Moses also provides the album with a great sense of groove throughout, and his work helps to propel songs like “Mercy” and “Cold Snap”, keeping the energy intact as the album oscillates between aggressive riffage and calmer passages.
Penultimate track “Wake This Giant” is the finest showcase of the band’s progressive songwriting chops. Lyrically utilizing the metaphor of a musical performance in order to dig into a deeper existential crisis, the track truly feels like a musical journey, as every member of the quartet gives their most intensely technical performance of the album. This unrelenting instrumental aggression is then superbly contrasted by closer “Lamb”, a slow-burn jam that ends the album on an emotionally gripping note. The contrast between these two final tracks is perhaps the most clear showcase of the dichotomy that Vox Vocis draws from so successfully throughout Star Meissa. Balancing every burst of instrumental vigor with genuine emotion and heartfelt lyricism, this is a band that ensures every musical flourish is grounded in purpose, and each song not only is enjoyable on a technical level, but actually makes the listener feel something.
Star Meissa successfully draws on influences from some of the best progressive bands of the past few decades, while also feeling fresh in its execution. Vox Vocis proves that even if a band isn’t reinventing the wheel in terms of their sound, they can still pull from each member’s distinct style and influences in order to create a musical journey that is distinct in its genre scene. Fans of I the Mighty, Emarosa, and other bands which stand on the edge of instrumental prowess and emotional intensity will find much to love here, and the band is sure to expand their national following with one of the finest rock albums of 2018 so far.