Pretoria, South Africa based Alt Metal band Urban Vitamin are comprised of Cobus Nigrini (Vocals), Ricky Dunningham (Drums), Rick De Villiers (Drums/Vocals), Neville Botha (Guitars, Electronica, Programming) and Cicero Carstens (Bass). Forming in 2008, they released their debut album “The First Time Hurts The Most” in 2010 as a free digital download and follow up EP “Agent Provocateur” in 2013. The past couple of years have seen Urban Vitamin play Ramfest alongside Foals, Killswitch Engage, Trivium and Biffy Clyro, change their drummer and continue to play gigs in and around South Africa.
Known for their intellectual lyrical content, experimentations with sub-genres of Metal, Alternative, Rock and Electronica, all of which showcased in a well-balanced fusion in their intricate song-writing, the band hit both Anti-motion Studio and UV Studio to record their new album “Ekphrasis”
The word Ekphrasis (for those of you who want to know) is from the Greek description of a work of art, possibly imaginary, produced as a rhetorical exercise; often used in adjectival form, ekphrastic. It’s a graphic, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art. So now you know.
“Ekphrasis” kicks off with “A Void Panoramic” with its eerie soundscapes and electronic programming, serving as a short introduction to what is possibly to come. It’s a nice way to start the album off, but in truth, it only gives a slight glimmer on what truly lies within.
“Hate For First Things” starts off with distorted guitars and aggro, screamed vocals. It is a complete change of pace to the previous track. The vocals themselves alternate between aggressive, screamed verses and choruses to more reflective and sombre tones. The switch up is good, in that it engages you and forces you to pay attention.
We continue the heaviness with “Metempsychose, Slow” and, if anything, it comes across as even heavier. Vocally it is more of the same, alternating between the screams and the cleaner crooning. The ending completely changes as the song goes back to the mellowness of the opener and finishes the track off gently with the music washing over you like the ocean. A very soothing finish to what is an outright aggressive song. In fact, with the way the heavier portion of the song finishes, it feels like it is a separate interlude entirely. “Contagion, And So On” continues the calming tone and features clean guitars and clean singing before cranking up the distortion and becoming more muscular and leaning towards an Alternate Rock/Post-Rock sound.
Next, we have the lead single “A Bloodless Ballet” and it’s more of the same. The instruments are heavier again, with the drums featuring more prominently throughout. “Simony” is similar in style to “Contagion, And So On” in that it is calm at first but then builds up into a bigger, overall Rock sound. The final minute of the song has a cool, electronic piece attached to it.
The final song is “Ghost-note Arcade” which starts off with big, distorted guitars before a quiet verse. The instrumentation has quite a presence here and their use of dynamics helps the song tremendously. It is a good way to finish the record off as it does leave the listener wanting more.
This was my first venture into Urban Vitamin and I didn’t know what to expect. Certain influences, such as The Mars Volta, Deftones and Norma Jean are evident in places and the way that the song styles switch up at times reminds me of Between The Buried And Me. Lyrically, the band are very strong and reading through the booklet, you can tell that Rick De Villiers puts a lot of thought into what he is writing about. They are certainly coming from a place of emotion.
I enjoyed what I heard and the album, for what it is, ticks boxes for me. If I had to nitpick, I would say that the lack of any prominent lead guitar is a shame. Not guitar solos per se, but some interesting lead lines here and there. I suppose the electronic/programming replaces those elements. The heavier songs, it could be argued, sound very similar to each other. The way the screamed vocals turn to clean singing and, back again, for example, does lend the record a “samey” quality.
However, overall, I did enjoy Ekphrasis and for fans of the aforementioned bands I would suggest giving Urban Vitamin a listen. They are an interesting band and I’m very interested to pore over their back catalogue and hear more of their material.