Reviewed: April 2021
Released: 2021, The Sign
Reviewer: Lee Carter
There’s somewhat of an expectation with modern progressive metal music that it needs to sound somewhat introspective. Whether that is in harder, heavier subgenres such as death metal, or lighter examples, there’s a certain level of brood that will be present. Yes, there can be the experimental and weird sort that are lighter than air, but these tend to be less common than the more prominent prog metal giants (DREAM THEATER notwithstanding).
As ever, there is a point to this preamble and that is the remarkable lightness that VOKONIS’ latest album, ‘Odyssey’ possesses. That’s not to say that it isn’t an exemplar in sludge-y heaviness with big, colossus-like riffs, because the big chorus from opener “Rebellion” will put pay to that almost immediately with such heft you’ll be laid out. Similarly, the ringing chords and frantic opening that herald “Black Wings” arrival hit with delectable bounce, whilst the grinding verse riff of “Azure” carries a sense of menace that doesn’t bode well.
So what of that lightness? The clean vocals add a soaring quality to the fold, and none more so than the almost sunshine-like verses of “Hollow Waters”. You can be sure these vocal parts will be a hit once live shows are a thing again. Additionally, the production has a delightful earthiness to it: nothing feels too processed, and very much feels like a band that has recorded their effort live with minimal overdubs. Pair all this with the scintillating keyboard contributions from former OPETH keys-man, Per Wilburg, and you’ve a deeply rich aural tapestry to delve into.
This is particularly apparent on closer and magnum opus, “Through The Depths”. Now it is this track where the earlier point about introspection and brooding could come into question as it feels a little darker than the earlier offerings up until this point. The slower verses with clean vocals and arpeggiated chords lends itself to a more emotive side of things, and made more apparent during the quieter centre of the song. What follows is a heavy jam session rife with Hammond key swirls and blues-y guitar noodling that sounds every bit like a band having the utmost fun creating music. For a six-minute jam, it’s pleasingly engaging.
After the success of their last outing in ‘Grasping Time’, VOKONIS had a strong platform on which to base their next effort, and they have used that platform to spring to new heights. Embracing more of their proggier moments, the result is a record stacked with heavy riffs, terrific melodies and some great instrumental playing from the Swedish trio (and Wilburg). It’s warm, bright and a bloody good fun listen. Well worth the journey.