by Kelli Redding
Vicious Blossom is a band I’ve not only had the pleasure of knowing over the past year, but I’ve also been lucky enough to see their live shows and play a small handful of shows with them in my own band this past October. Vicious Blossom is a band from Pennsylvania consisting of Nate Zerbe, Bri Gilotte, Griffin Evans, Ben Pawling, and Hollace Kimmet. They’ve spent the past few years working hard to cultivate a small – yet thriving – shoegaze and dream pop scene in their hometown of Lancaster, PA. They’ve even opened for familiar favorites within their genre such as The Stargazer Lillies, as well as LSD and the Search for God. Their upcoming album Solace is slated to release on April 26th, and I’ve been able to give it an early listen and share my thoughts on it below. Fans of this genre are in for a definite treat, as this album has truly captured the band’s evolving sound on their best record yet.
Picture this: desolate landscapes, wind and leaves. This is an album evoking a strong sense of natural surroundings, of muted sunlight trying to break way through heavy clouds, or of mirror-like reflection upon dark sapphire bodies of water. In an age of countless bands striving to recreate the lush ambiance of classic shoegaze greats, to me, Vicious Blossom has always come across to me as a band that is truly and blaringly authentic. Solace is the next chapter in their dazzling trip, and I am definitely along for the ride.
“Sway” kicks off with a 90s-infused guitar riff reminiscent of crunchy My Bloody Valentine-esque guitar-pop bliss. Nate’s mellowed-out vocals layer perfectly with the music to create the chilled-out soundscapes that Vicious Blossom excels at – just like their name, their tone often ranges from driving and abrasive to floating and ethereal, all within a single song. For those previously unfamiliar with this band, “Sway” is a blissful intro into just that. The next track, “Opium,” has a bit more of a punch to it and plunges the listener further into the album. This is the kind of song that begs to be listened to while speeding along the highway at night, alone with your thoughts while stars hang weightlessly on the other side of the window. “Vertigo” is the first track on the album to feature Bri Gilotte on vocals, and thus propels you somewhere otherworldly. The instrumentation has a definite Cocteau Twins vibe to it, providing a lush, cloudy-sky backdrop to Bri’s vocals, which are a gorgeous combination of dreamy and anthemic. It is no surprise that the band – in particular Bri’s distinct vocal style – just recently piqued the interest of Slowdive’s very own Rachel Goswell.
“Shine” is another rocker, a dizzying kaleidoscope of noise that brings a renewed sense of energy to the heavier sentiments at stake here, which are revisited in more depth on the following track, “Wave Spell,” a serene ballad full of imagery and yearning. A clear highlight of the album, this is the soundtrack to the crashing of waves against an abandoned shoreline, or of blurry emotions buried so deep that they may be hidden away, audible only as faint echoes from the inside of seashells.
“Pull Away” depicts feelings of heartache, something so complex that it can feel numb yet intense all at the same time – yet the song seems to capture this contrast exceedingly well. Nate returns on vocals for the next track, “Your Bedroom,” a soaring tune echoing the adrenaline-fueled melodies of bands such as Swervedriver or Catherine Wheel. “Luna” is perhaps the album’s sweetest moment, featuring violin and warm guitar chords to assure the listener that, beneath all the texture and noise characteristic to the band, even at their most minimal arrangements they are still able to deliver songs that are both striking and heartfelt.
This softer sentiment continues on “Emerald,” which is somewhat of a candy-coated, reverb-drenched love song. “Low,” the final track on the album, bathes the listener in the moonlight of warm acoustic guitar that culminates in an emotional high of realizing that pain and loss are just part of the human experience and that there are still new journeys to wake up to and begin in life the next day.
Overall Solace is an upcoming shoegaze release not to be missed, and one that I believe will appeal to both longtime fans of the genre as well as newcomers and listeners of alternative rock in general. The band is playing a release show in celebration of the album on April 26th, accompanied by Euphoria Again, Knifeplay, and Beach Bully in their hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.