2nd February 2015 – Self-released
01. The Same War
02. Stray The Skies
05. Your Mind Is A Helpless Dreamer
07. Gutter Moon
08. A Stare Without Eyes
09. Feed The Creatures
The best thing about changing trends in music is that they introduce new building blocks to the construction kit which bands can employ. When listening to Danish quintet VOLA‘s debut full-length, Inmazes, it doesn’t take long to notice that the band have been heavily influenced by the guitar sounds pioneered by Meshuggah and subsequently codified by legions of djent bands. However, in using these tones as just one element in a richly varied sonic recipe, it would be selling VOLA devastatingly short to write them off as just another clone of the Swedish titans, as we shall see.
Second track “Stray the Skies” provides an early and striking example of what VOLA are capable of, with a keyboard-led intro dropping swiftly into a tremendously satisfying riff. With its hyper-downtuned, buzzsaw tones, pitch bends and lurching syncopation, those previously mentioned influences are nailed clearly to the mast, albeit in a most pleasingly lip-curling fashion. But as this riff bleeds into the first verse, VOLA start to pull away from the pack. Vocalist Asger opts for a more delicate approach than the typical gravel-throated frontman, gracing the staccato riffing with a slightly spaced out overlay. The chorus then reintroduces the keyboard line from the intro and marries it to an earworm inducing vocal hook. It’s potent stuff, and as Inmazes progresses, it’s clear that “Stray the Skies” is no one-off fluke.
The deeper one gets into Inmazes‘ run-time, the longer the list of potential touchstones to reference becomes. It’s possible to pick out from the mix the uplifting futurism of Devin Townsend and the tech-prog of The Contortionist, maybe a nod in the direction of millennial nu-metallers like Ultraspank or American Head Charge and a fairly generous slice of the pop sensibilities of the eighties new romantics, which are incorporated into the band’s sound more completely than pretty much any band since Deftones.
The net result is a mature collection of atmospheric, progressive metal songs, with other stand out tracks like “Starburn“, “Your Mind Is A Helpless Dreamer” and “A Stare Without Eyes” striking a delicate balance between anthemic and plaintively heartsick. Throughout the album, a gut-churning riff or a memorable vocal hook is never far away. The title track rounds off Inmazes in a thoroughly blissed out fashion, building from its suitably off-kilter introduction to a practically euphoric conclusion.
However, the album is not a completely unqualified success. It is possibly a couple of tracks too long, so getting through the whole thing in one go does require a fair bit of stamina. Additionally, the keyboards sometimes sit a little too high in the mix, dominating proceedings rather than augmenting them, in a similar fashion to some Born of Osiris tracks.
But this does not detract from the overall impact VOLA have made with their debut, with a good number of very strong songs showcasing their potent and imaginative sound. VOLA have provided themselves a solid platform from which to mature, with a diverse enough range of influences that they could go literally anywhere from here. It’s going to be fascinating to see where they end up, and Inmazes provides a fascinating soundtrack to listen to while we wait.