Monday, April 20, 2015

Album Review: Vola - Inmazes

Modern metal has evolved in a way I hadn't seen coming, with robotic rhythms being played at almost inaudible tunings becoming the standard.  We can assign blame wherever we want, but regardless of the cause, modern metal has become almost detached from the traditional means and methods of songwriting.  Everything now relies on a tolerance of tunings that exist outside the comfort zone of both our ears and the instruments technology, enough mathematical sense to comprehend what a 6/4 riff being played over a 5/8 drum pattern means, and the constitution to listen to music devoid of strong melodies.

That is especially true in progressive metal, where the abilities of the playeers to do amazing things with their instruments has reached its nadir, with few bands offering much to the casual listener.  Vola is undoubtedly a progressive metal band in the modern sense, but they are not beholden to the curses of time.

It doesn't take long into "The Same War" to hear all the hallmarks of metal in the post-Meshuggah world.  The guitars are ridiculously low-tuned, the riffs bounce like pogo-sticks all around a traditional 4/4 beat, with plenty of that slurred tone that I never feel makes a lot of sense in a song.  But what makes it all the more interesting is that when the chorus hits, there's a real melody and well-executed clean vocals, which give the song a commercial pull to balance the heavier aspects.  It is precisely what most of this kind of music is missing, and exactly what I was hoping for.

"Stray The Skies" takes things in an even more interesting direction, adding plenty of cold 80s synths to the mix, turning the song into a bizarre amalgamation of Devin Townsend and Soft Cell.  The weirdest part about it is that while it would seem to be too much being thrown into the same pot, it really does work.  The verses are there to pound you with the thundering riffing, and the chorus sweeps it away in a sugary rush.  That is the essence of how to write crushing metal.

As the album continues, there are subtle shifts to the sound, where a song like "Owls" uses a blistering riff to set the stage for a softer, more somber number.  Despite this, the drawback to a record like this is that it begins to wear as it moves along.  Individually, there's nothing wrong with any of the tracks here, but the style stays so consistent that there aren't enough dynamics to make the entire record feel vibrant.  Every riff is in the same register, with the same tone, so they blend together by the time you reach the midpoint of the album.  The vocals, likewise, trade in the same type of melody in every chorus, which makes them a bit interchangeable.

That being said, "Inmazes" is a really good record for this style.  Modern metal of this ilk has a tendency to be completely faceless and alienating, but that is not what I would say about Vola.  Their music has enough ties to a more melodic brand of metal that there are elements of this record that will appeal to the lovers of modern heaviness, but also those of us who wonder where metal went wrong along the way.  No, this isn't my kind of metal, but I can't deny that Vola has made a good record here.

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