Music, in all forms, is an energy. It exists to be harnessed; released. Vie Jester appear to be on the verge of achieving this singularity. The L.A.-based alternative/hard rock trio’s latest EP All in Jest courses with exquisite musicianship, Kardashian-sized hooks, and an aggressive, if sometimes gritty, vivacity that ultimately turns out to be their finest trait. Focusing up on a more straightforward attack (although I use the term ‘straightforward’ loosely) than 2015’s Etches in Aether EP, which seemed to linger on its slower moments a little longer, All in Jest is a layered work of progressive rhythms and sweeping melodies that has the accessibility of say, mid-2000s Papa Roach. The music paints that picturesque, hazy, dreamlike idea people hold of a Los Angeles summertime, but crosses it with what could be considered the alternative metal equivalent of club anthem atmospherics.
Look, to put it in layman’s terms: it’s a lot of damn fun.
Aside from stellar production and a willingness to stretch their songs as far as they can foreseeably go, Vie Jester are terrifically smart at crafting sleek, sexy hooks, which often feels like the main focus of this EP. The clap-along backing track is an overused trope if there ever was one, yet when the record’s centerpiece, “Enigmata,” throws it on top of a synthetic guitar tone and a thumping dance beat that hits harder than Ivan Drago, the band absolutely owns it. That very same song also utilizes dirty, droning guitars, squeaky clean verses, and a pre-chorus that sounds like it came straight out of a trademarked Alice in Chains playbook. That Vie Jester can form a mishmash of influences like this into a comprehensible song – let alone a good one – instills one with a sense of great promise from the young musicians. It’s this promise that made me want to keep listening, and its fulfillment that made me glad I did. The group does well to project the modern, alternative rock sound without coming across as a bore.
“Please,” with its prog-metal guitar riff and shifting backbeat, does what all great opening tracks should and envelopes us with varying degrees of musical intensity. It gives us a taste of what the band is capable of without playing all of their cards. When the band’s vocalist uses his delicate timbre to sing “Eclipse my memory with cabernet,” over the sweeping, quasi-balladry of “Sunburn and Moonshine,” the delivery is so instantly memorable it might as well be coming from 30 Seconds to Mars playing to a sold out arena. The ability to sing back a song’s tune after the first listen is a sort of musical-litmus test I sometimes catch myself using, and based solely off of that, All in Jest is an unapologetically strong release. Going track for track, the only piece that didn’t quite cut it for me was “The Punchline,” a sort of wallowing song that if anything is overshadowed by the rest of the disc’s strength.
Sometimes the record’s more experimental edges don’t fully pay off. The eclectic, cyberpunk riff to the aforementioned “Enigmata” is definitely unique, but feels jarring when blared at you on its own as an intro to the song. Similarly, the fade-in/fade-out volume level of closing track “Colourblind”‘s build-up to the final chorus did little but to draw me out of experiencing an otherwise excellent track. It is admirable to hear something different being tried; risks being taken, albeit they never feel necessary for their respective moments.
I have no problem addressing the fact that All in Jest is well outside the range of usual material I cover here at the Vault, or even what I listen to at my own leisure. To focus on that would be to miss the point of writing about music, though. Vie Jester have the sound of a band that knows their audience, and their spin on the alternative rock genre is one of the most entertaining I have heard from a group of their size. In a recent conversation with some fellow Indy Metal writers, we were trying to draw the line between what separates a demo and an EP. Part of my resolution was that an EP is (usually) a more concise, well put together idea than a demo. As far as catchy, sometimes introspective alternative music goes, All in Jest covers all of its bases in a brisk, well formulated manner and ought to be the delicate stepping stone which leads to me hearing Vie Jester on the radio one day in the future (ideally without having to drive through L.A. traffic).
All in Jest can be purchased on CD and digital formats through Vie Jester’s website.