If the name Vyc Vypyr rings a few bells, it’s because – just with a different spelling – it’s the moniker of the spaceship from the ‘80s shoot ‘em up video game called Gradius. But Vyc Vypyr, a speed metal band from Ottawa, Ontario, might ring a few bells once you hear them, too. That’s because the outfit basically takes the template of ‘80s old school metal, from Iron Maiden, Megadeth and Judas Priest, and tweaks the formula slightly. Since their debut album, A Hero’s Grave Part One, offers the promise of at least a sequel in the title, the band also owes some debt to progressive rock. Not surprisingly, the three musicians who make up the core of the group have been playing rock, prog and heavy metal in other bands for most of their lives. Formed in 2013, Vyc Vypyr doesn’t rediscover fire or anything like that. Heck, they don’t even really try. They essentially take a well-worn formula and hone it. If you’re looking for metal that pushes boundaries as to what metal or music is, look elsewhere. Vyc Vypyr is about paying homage and tribute, and do a very fine job of that. Is this album entertaining and exciting? Oh hells yes! And that’s why you need to hear it.
Opener “The Climb”, even though it’s only 78 seconds long, it sounds like a full-on band version of the soundtrack to one of those classic fighting games that was released by Nintendo during the ‘80s. (Contra comes to mind.) Air guitars will abound. From there, the speed and technicality that this band plays at is merciless. “Death Before Dishonour” is basically a nod to the New Wave of British Metal and is a fine, nimble number. However, the band steps out of its zone of replication and offers some nice touches here and there: “Even the Sky Bleeds” is a piano ballad that sort of resembles the opening tinkly tinkly of Van Halen’s “Right Now”. (For some reason, Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend” comes to mind, too.) Meanwhile, “Inscription On a Cenotaph” is a blissful piece of acoustic almost classical guitar with pianos once again rising to the fore. It’s these instrumental interludes that elevate the material beyond mere pastiche. Regardless, even if Vyc Vypyr were an all-metal ‘80s cover band, they’d still be an excellent one. That they can make music this daring and thrilling, even if it might not be the most original, is a testament to their musicianship and the fact that they have great songs. Bring on Part Two.