Review Summary: Sludgy post-metal with a piano. What more could you want?
It’s hard to make or listen to music nowadays without worrying about originality. It happens in pretty much every genre. Whenever you listen to a band, if it sounds like a hundred other bands then it’s hard to really enjoy the record than you otherwise would. When listening to Vaka, you really don’t have that problem.
Something about the production, the piano and the dynamics of the record make it different from your other Post-Metal bands. On “Kappa Delta Phi” the sound is ethereal yet personal, sorrowful but nevertheless full of power – it’s a sound that can draw you in and blow you away, or just flood over you like an ocean. It’s full of beautiful melodies (piano led or otherwise), primordial and bombastic drumming, and gorgeous soundscapes throughout. Post-Metal bands often sound predictable, enjoyable at first but when put in context alongside releases such as this just inadequate. It’s not necessarily a case of pushing boundaries or breaking exciting new ground, it’s just making yourself sound different from all the other bands out there.
Vaka do this, and they do it with aplomb. The piano is an essential touch. Whereas the guitars give off a heavy, dominating vibe, the piano plays around this in many subtle ways. Either with brooding and dark chords in the background (“Born To Secrecy”) or leading the song with beautiful and sorrowful melodies (“At The Hands Of Loss”) the instrument is vital for the sound Vaka produce. What’s key is that it doesn’t become monotonous, a lesser band could have had piano in their sound no problem, but Vaka make sure that it is constantly doing something new. Either leading a song or just as a subtle part of the ever changing rhythmic background.
Combining this ever present piano with some amazing electronics (“Like An Astronomer” in particular) and an extremely forceful drum display gives the album its identity, and bringing back the original point, it’s originality. While the vocals aren’t brilliantly original, their presence alongside this more unique Post-Metal sound is brilliant, and melodies that would otherwise be forgettable are made stunning thanks to other elements that play around them. The best songs on this come when the piano melodies come to the forefront, like the simply stunning “At The Hands Of Loss” and the haunting “Stalemate”, but there’s little to complain about with this album. It’s a unique, personal and atmospheric album that reveals itself more and more over time without being overbearing, some of the most interesting stuff I’ve heard in this genre for a long time.