Written by: TL on 26/01/2015 18:06:36

From the looks of it so far, 2015 is shaping up to be a defining year for quite a few of the local Danish bands that we have been keeping track of for a while, with debut albums coming out left and right. One of the bands stepping up to bat is the unpredictable modern prog group VOLA, who have impressed us earlier with the characteristic sounds of their two EP's, yet their announcement of debut album "Inmazes" still felt a bit out of the blue, if no less ambitious for it. Mastered at Fascination Street Studio, "Inmazes" casts the Copenhagen-based quartet as a band whose inspirations range from the weighty djent metal of Meshuggah, through both classic and modern prog virtues, and over into the dreamy domains of fellow Danes Mew. Abrupt guitar and bass patterns churn heavily in the bottom of their sound, always in exotic yet headbang-friendly rhythms, while gushing keyboards, synthesized glockenspiel and tapped leads create spacey, frosty, melodious layers on top. Guitarist Asger Mygind provides the vocal narrative, mostly in a round, melodic baryton, often singing like he's affectionately addressing some ghost we cannot see, yet also occasionally sprinkling a bit of growling into the mix, although this is kept very situational.

Despite the progressive trappings of VOLA's overall sound, the band has opted for a nice compromise in their songwriting, carefully establishing recognisable signature riffs and an engaging verse/chorus format to start their songs off, only then veering of into extended guitar shenanigans and bridges in the last halves of the tracks, which tend to clock in around six minutes. Opener "The Same War" is the first example of this, moving aggressively fast to begin with, only to pull up and offer a more soaring chorus before spacing out later. "Starburn" follows a similar design, leaping from eerie music box sounds up to a roaring lead riff that lends the song a powerful, cosmic feeling. That Mygind sings on this song is almost moot, as the instrumentals are so air-guitar-worthy that they could carry the track by themselves.

At track four, "Owls" offers a change of pace via a more sinister, dry sound, and as Mygind pushes his singing down as low as possible, the song fluctuates between threatening gloom and a more beautiful sense of danger, as if observing some destructive force of nature. The following "Your Mind Is A Helpless Dreamer" however, stands out more as a highlight, as a strong glockenspiel signature guides the listener through some properly hard-hitting and unpredictable passages, before a breakdown leads into a mean electronic tunnel which throws an awesome "one time only" bass effect in to top off some rowdy synthwork. "Emily" gives the listener a mid-album ballad style song, seemingly mostly just meant to let you catch your breath before the single "Gutter Moon", which is so "heavy Mew" that it almost hurts. Both the vocal harmonies, the note for note glockenspiel backing and the later synth solo, sound incredibly reminiscent of VOLA's elder countrymen, but at least in the good way, as it's still a fine track.

Of the final three tracks that make up the album's total ten, "Feed The Creatures" has the most noteworthy bits of melody, but you do begin to sense that at this point, VOLA start to reach the limits for what they can do with the ideas they have developed so far. At no point do you sense a dip in the quality of the atmosphere, but the directions of these last songs are slightly less captivating. This only makes it seem prudent to cap the album off at ten tracks though, and it's made up for by how utterly awesome "Inmazes" sounds as a production. The low end has just the stomach-punching oomph you look for, and all melodic elements are clearly defined (and enunciated!) in a soundscape that feels loud, thick and thoroughly its own. So all things considered, VOLA's big debut does not disappoint, neither in terms of stand out tracks or in terms of a take on djent that continues to resemble very few other bands.


Download: The Same War, Starburn, Your Mind Is A Helpless Dreamer, Gutter Moon
For The Fans Of: TesseracT, Volumes, Uneven Structure, Agent Fresco, Mew
Listen: facebook.com/volaband

Release date 02.02.2015

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