It’s incredible to think how much the progressive rock and metal landscape has changed over the past few years. With the popularity of “djent” bands reaching saturation levels lately, one could be forgiven for thinking that the genre has nothing new or innovative left to offer. Of course, as with any genre, a band comes along once in a while which offers something fresh and new. This is exactly what Danish band VOLA has done on their debut album Inmazes. A stunning slab of modern metal, Inmazes is a powerful kick between the legs of not only the metal genre, but the entire progressive/djent genre as a whole. VOLA is: Asger Mygind on vocals and guitar, Nicolai Mogensen on bass, Martin Werner on keyboards and Felix Ewert on drums.
RELEASE DATE: 02 February 2015 LABEL: Self-released
Inmazes is an incredible amalgamation of so many influences ranging from brutal Meshuggah-esque polyrhythmic riffing to Depeche Mode-style vocals, all infused with 70’s prog-rock sensibilities. Inmazes kicks off strongly with the song “The Same War”; an off-kilter riff greets the listener at the very beginning and doesn’t let up for most of the song. Some futuristic sounding electronica-type elements can be heard towards the end of the song and are a welcome surprise and set the atmosphere for the rest of Inmazes.
“Stray the Skies” starts off with some wonderful retro sounding keyboard backed up by a strong rhythm section on bass and guitar. The song soon evolves into a grooving beast and the chorus will end up stuck in the head of any listener for many hours afterwards! “Starburn” is one of the standouts on Inmazes, maybe even the best track on the album. The contrast of light and dark is incredible to say the least. Spacey ambience slowly pulls the listener in, followed by a catchy, reverb-soaked acoustic riff which keeps the listener fully in the song’s grasp. A brutal cacophony of crashing drums, distorted guitar and groovey bass (all backed up and rounded out by excellent synth-like keyboard) subsequently go on to kick the listener square in the jaw (and yes, YOU WILL enjoy that!). The song then takes a complete 180° turn with vocalist Asger Mygind serenading the listener and crooning angelically over beautifully constructed verses. Asger Mygind lets a visceral growl out towards the end of the verses which is both welcome, and possibly sorely lacking on Inmazes which could have benefited from the extra bite that growled vocals provide. “Starburn” ends off in an anthemic fashion and leads off into the next track, “Owls”.
“Owls” was the first track that I heard from VOLA and it definitely leaves an impression, showcasing everything that VOLA has to offer; mixes of baritone and falsetto-style singing, brutal syncopated riffs, beautiful and airy clean passages, and absolutely crushing drumming; oh and don’t forget the damn cool keyboard! Just a quick side note; the guitar tone towards the end of the song sounds HUGE, probably some of the largest sounding tone I have ever heard on a metal or rock record. Things only get better on “Your Mind Is A Helpless Dreamer”. The notch gets turned up one extra level for this song and it is actually refreshing to find a modern metal album that has really strong material in the middle of the album and not just filler. The return of growled vocals coupled with an excellent solo towards the end of the song are both huge pluses!
“Emily” showcases VOLA’s softer side with static infused synths and angelic harmonies overlaying flourishes of bassy noise, all overlaid by a gentle and emotional vocal performance. Being the first single released off of Inmazes, “Gutter Moon” is also one of the standouts of Inmazes. The intro riff is absolutely haunting, addictive and beautiful all at the same time and leads into a wondrous chorus which befits the single status of this track. The use of keyboard is especially noticeable and is executed right on point.
“A Stare Without Eyes” is a real banger of a track; I envision that many a fan watching VOLA live will start to uncontrollably and furiously head bang to this without being able to stop (that’s all you need to know!). “Feed The Creatures” and “Inmazes” round off the rest of Inmazes; I will say that “Feed The Creatures” would have made a more fitting end to Inmazes; the intro has a real epic quality to it, and coupled with a big sing-along chorus and groovy bass line driven interlude, is befitting of an excellent end track to an excellent album. “Inmazes” isn’t bad, but it drags a bit and isn’t as creative or fresh sounding as previous tracks.
I’m not sure how these Scandinavians do it, but the sound mix on Inmazes is near perfect, much like many of the rock and metal albums that have come out of the region. All the instruments are clearly audible and complement each other without getting in the way. The guitars are crisp and sound huge as previously mentioned, and the bass is actually audible (a real shocker for a metal album) and adds a thunderous rumble to the mix. Every crash of the drum symbols cuts through the mix, and the keyboard and synths complement each track without overpowering anything. Lastly, the vocals sound natural with just enough added reverb or chorus effects to really make them shine. Looking at the album art, it’s not often that album artwork depicts the “sound” of the songs contained within, but somehow Inmazes’ artwork does this exactly. The album artwork is indeed a piece of art and it is well worth picking up the physical copy of the album.
I love Inmazes, the more I listen to it, the more I love it. Two months of constant listening and everything still sounds fresh which to me is one of the signs of a great album. VOLA is near perfect in their execution and have almost done no wrong on Inmazes. Sure, some more growled vocals would have been a nice addition, maybe the overall album running time could have been shaved down a bit (with the song “Inmazes” doing nothing for me) but this is just me nit-picking and actually looking for something negative. Metal and progressive music has seen a wave of talented bands and artists this past decade; you can count VOLA as one of them.