Progressive music, especially in the metal spectrum, has evolved greatly since classic’s like Moving Pictures. Bands like Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree amped up the sound and led the way for new generations to put their own stamp on what had come before. Today, the genre has absorbed so much, the template has grown, befitting of the very word ‘progressive’ and with debut LP Inmazes, Denmark’s VOLA are here to push that template one step further.
The Same War springs to life with a mammoth riff, setting precedent for the rest of the album. A staccato verse leads the way for a brilliant half-time chorus, reminiscent of Opeth at their most accessible. Accessible is a key word here with the immediacy of Inmazes being vital in keeping the listener’s attention. Second track Stray The Skies certainly does this, harnessing the album’s catchiest riff and orchestral arrangements to give the song a unique atmosphere. The keys of Martin Werner provide layering and memorable melodies to the album, which alongside lush vocals, lend a Depeche Mode quality to the record. Starburn‘s airy intro gives the listener a chance to breathe before the storm arrives again with another huge chorus ending on an elephantine guitar part right out of the Rush playbook.
With Inmazes the band creates an overarching and consistent feel, much like a well directed movie, locking the listener the into the cosmic soundscape of its creator. Asger Mygind’s cryptic lyrics bring depth to the record, his warm vocal tones slotting smoothly atop the polyrhythmic interplay of the rest of the band. The production here from Mygind is crisp and hits big in all the right places, with rhythm section of Felix Ewert (drums) and Nicolai Mogensen (bass) providing a backdrop for colossal guitars and textured electronica. This allows mini-epic’s such as Owls, with its transformative mid section, to dynamically shift in mood and pace without missing a step.
With Emily, the band unveil the heart of Inmazes, bridging the gap between the scintillating guitar/keyboard interplay of Your Mind is a Hopeless Place and the moog-laced romanticism of Gutter Moon. It shows the band at their ambient best, exposing VOLA as something more than just Meshuggah-esque guitars and catchy choruses. Emily’s inventive nature spreads to the rest of the record and helps build to a climactic final few tracks. Feed The Creatures starts with Bjork-like vocals and tranquil synths, before a gloriously 80’s chorus soars over more polyrythmnic riffery. The title-track closes out the album in a remarkable fashion. All Mr Bungle keys and oddball guitars to start, the song twists its way through a hyper-melodic collection of the bands strongest points ; including a wonderfully chorus-heavy guitar solo and canyon-sized vocal lines, fading to a glassy, shimmering close.
With Inmazes, VOLA have achieved something rare. An album that fuses accessible melodies, crushingly deep guitar tone and mesmerizing electronics into an expansive wall of metallic groove-based sound. An album which is immediate but will reward the listener with repeated listens. More importantly, an album that will undoubtedly show its influence in years to come.
Inmazes is out now on Mascot Records. Check VOLA out on Facebook.