Looking to follow-up on the strength of their well-received self-released EP ‘The Black’, Seattle-based quintet Versus look set to push forward with their debut album ‘The Cardinal’. The band have crafted a record with distinctive nü-metal and post-hardcore influences, this is a formula which lends itself well to their sound.
Lead single, ‘No Safety’ is an example of this format working, with its strong sense of melody adding to the heavier moments. However, despite some pleasing melodic touches, the lack of a big chorus hinders the chances of it lingering with the listener long.
Despite their slick professionalism, the aforementioned formulaic approach soon becomes predictable. Yet there are moments that deviate from the blueprint. ‘The Looking Glass’ adds some nuance through its uplifting sonic landscape and gang vocals, ultimately adding depth to the repeated use of triggered drums and breakdowns.
‘Empty’ goes even further to separate itself, slowing down the pace down and upping the emotion significantly. Heavy guitars and primal screams are switched up for piano keys and clean vocals, giving the listener a respite and a moment to absorb the sincere honesty found in the lyrical content. Later ‘Stone Heart’ offers another highlight, again adding emotion to the more straight-forward song structures. Here, the guitar tone is heavy but still polished, and the vocal trade-offs are slick, if erratic. Perhaps due to the frequent switches of tone.
In spite of the aforementioned flashes of quality, this record is not the dream start the band would have wanted. The djent-lite guitar tone works in places, but can also grate with its repeated use along with vocals choping and changing throughout. Overall, the record lacks the consistency needed to elevate otherwise forgettable deep album tracks.
Despite these flaws you should not write off Versus at all. For a debut record ‘The Cardinal’ shows enough good ideas to suggest a bright future.
‘The Cardinal’ by Versus is released on 3rd March on Revival Recordings.
Words by Joe Philpott (@joe_philpott)