Thursday, November 27, 2014

Volahn: " Aq' ab' al"

Here's the first album of 2015 . It's an exploration in Mayan mysticism. It' also  lo-fi explosion of raw chaos. The drums are static blast beats, hiding the bass line if there is one under the angular jangle of the layered guitar. In some ways this comes across similar to something Liturgy might do, as they project is not is not adhering to the conventional black metal sound in terms of what the guitars can and can't do. It's way more adventurous, even progressive in some sense. The opening song is 13 minutes and after the first five minutes it has already left you pretty dizzy, until it breaks down into a guitar melody that reminds me a little of "Summer Breeze".

The odd  juxtaposition is the fact for an album to be so ambitious , they did not give a shit about the production and have this raw garage sound. The vocals are buried underneath the almost punk tangle of jangles. The acoustic break in the final four minutes of the first song shows that they are capable of achieving well crafted songs, so when Volahn is coming at you full throttle, they just don't give a shit about clarity.

"Halhi Khoba" sounds a little more carefully constructed than the opening song. There is more space for the sounds to breathe. Aside from leaning on the blast beats.This finds Volahn coming up with some pretty innovative methods of combining sounds. The bass is also audible in this one as well. So there is a night and day difference in quality here. The conventional black metal guitar tone is forsaken for a slightly warmer rock n roll like tone. The vocals are the only element that seems to be an after thought, they are produced in the same manner they were on the first song. They stay in a lower bellow that transitions into a almost spoken moan not unlike Watain's approach on the older albums.

The same synth layered madness is revisited on " Bonampak". The clarity in the tones takes a step backward ,here as the intensity level picks up. So when ever this project employs a more feral pacing then they throw the quality of sound out the window. This is not unheard of in black metal it just seems like backwards thinking in 2015 if we are little trying to adhere to the necro ascetic of 1995. It works for Burzum, but this album is throwing more at you than just trying to bring you into the drone of the maelstrom. The angular guitar parts which seem to really define Volahn's sound remain at the forefront, but I can't help but think from a production stand point these could work better if given more love in post- production. Not saying some interesting tones are stumbled upon as they capture some in the break that comes before the six minute mark. Not unlike the first song around the 8 minute mark clean almost folk metal tones are employed in this song's final moments.

They return to crisper sounds, at least as far as this project goes, on "Quetzalcoatl". There is more of a galloped groove, which marks one of the first notable moments that blast beats are avoided. I think this makes for much more effective song writing as blast beats often become a crutch for black metal bands. Not that Volahn is reluctant to inevitably return to them.The other almost rock n roll grooves  are found to jam on gives this song a wider range and allows more space for the guitars to shine. You are plunged back into the chaos in short time on "Koyopa". The guitar melodies still cut through the din. The sloppy wall of beats drags the song back down into the more cut and paste elements of black metal, that Volahn has shown they are capable of transcending. The drums blur out to the forefront with some impressive fills , that add to the jumbled assault. If you check your watch it's the 8 minute mark again as the formula remains intact making it time to drop back down into an acoustic guitar piece.

They close the album at the rapid pace of " Nawalik". This is a more death metal like take on what they have already down, though the guitar takes a more surf rock tone in one of the lead melodies. Here the more cavernous sound is more fitting of the lower  frequencies this songs rumbled with. The more taunt punk pounding the guitar lands on at times is more effective than some of the other mindless tremolo picked parts. This album embarks on a bold and adventurous path, the question is how much clarity in terms of sound quality to you need ? If you are a fan of lo-fi raw black metal and want it with a more progressive flare then this album is for you. I will give it a 7.5.

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