Heavy music’s cutting edge may be moving away from the technical and progressive stylings that have characterised it for the better part of a decade now, but this doesn’t mean that it has nothing left to give. Sounding like a record that would have sat near the top of the pile when tech boom was at its most potent, ‘Inmazes’ – the debut record by Danish quartet Vola – utilises guitar and bass tones more akin to heavy machinery than any kind of musical instrument, as well as an abundance of ambient textures and soaring vocals. Originally an independent, digital-only release that surfaced in very early 2015, the record garnered some critical praise, but perhaps due to the small scale of its campaign, the public response failed to match up. Spotting its potential however, Vola have now been snapped up by Mascot Label Group, and Inmazes has been given the full scale re-release treatment.
While it’s true that many of its component parts will be familiar, it’s in their songwriting nous that Vola separate themselves from the pack. Influences as diverse as Meshuggah, Massive Attack, Opeth and The Beatles may make for strange bedfellows on paper, but what becomes abundantly clear is how deliberate and song-serving each riff, vocal and groove feels. “It often starts with a rhythmic idea,” explains vocalist and guitarist Asper Mygind. “I’m also a drummer, and I tend to have rhythms circling in my head. It seems I might even have made it some sort of a mindgame for myself to find rhythmic patterns that sounds cool when repeated over and over again. If the rhythmic idea doesn’t have pitches tied to them in my head, I’ll pick up a guitar and try to spread out the pattern on the guitar notes. That’s how the album’s first track ´The Same War´ was made.”
Much like the rest of the album, ‘The Same War’ is a hulking juggernaut: co-produced by Mygind himself, it demonstrates the power of an artist’s singular vision, and how it can pay dividends in the right hands. Vola may only be a four piece, but the Devin Townsend style vocal harmonies and atmospheric synths ensure multiple listens are required in order to fully dissect this record.
Despite such grand instrumentation, ‘Inmazes’’ lyrics are far more grounded in reality than one might expect, touching on themes such as mental entrapment, and exploring far more human themes than titles like ‘Starburn’ and ‘Gutter Moon’ might suggest. “It’s very important for me to talk about mental health in the lyrics, but it is an intuitive choice,” Asper reveals. “I never sat down and had a brainstorm about it. I made those lyrics to make me feel better, basically, and I hope that the listener can sense that and pick out stuff that they can draw from in their own life…I’m quite private person and it doesn’t come natural to me to be the center of attention. What I like to do is to create lyrics that build upon characters I make up, and then write myself into these characters. It becomes a narrative where the line between me and the different points of view in the lyrics are blurred.”
Aside from their lyrical approach, it’s this album’s less “metal” moments like the fully electronic track ‘Emily’ that truly stand out, helping Vola to move even further from away their peers. While many bands of this ilk are far more tokenistic in their use of ambient sonics, Vola’s understanding feels far deeper and more cohesive. This willingness to push their genre’s boundaries beyond what has come before suggests that the band desire to carve their own path in a way that echoes the Deftones at turn of the century, leaving their nu metal roots behind to become something completely unique: a sentiment that Mygind further alludes to.
“I see Vola as partly belonging to this scene, but I do believe that we also have elements in our sound that exists closer to the mainstream. I like how a band like Deftones have carved out a space for themselves in rock, where there is room for experimentation and heavy riffs, while still being able to perform for big crowds. They’ve always kept their integrity, in my opinion, and have had people come to them instead of the other way around.”
With ‘Inmazes’ re-release, a full scale European tour supporting Swedish prog legends Katatonia, as well as an appearance at this year’s Euroblast festival, it’s clear that Vola are wasting no time in bringing their music to as many potential fans as possible. While it is unclear what the future holds for the band, if this record is only their Adrenaline, God knows what their ‘White Pony’ is going to sound like.
‘Inmazes’ by Vola is out now on Mascot Records.
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Words by Josh Graham (@jollyboyjosh_)