Review Summary: Carries both the splendor and the density of a dying star; a tornado of sound - equal parts beautiful and brutal - from which there is no escape.
As much as I hate reducing any form of art to an “x + y” equation of its influences, I feel compelled to note that Vukari’s latest album is precisely what you’d expect if someone told you that Mgla had released their own version of Sunbather
sits quaintly at that intersection, blending the relentless aggression and dynamism of the former with the semi-melodic, engulfing walls of sound you’ll find in the latter to create a rebellious powerhouse that slyly squirms its way out of easy classification. It’s black, it’s atmospheric, it’s doomy, it’s melodic, it’s gazey, but it’s never any of those in totality, constantly stretching itself across the full spectrum effortlessly.
All of this becomes evident from the first track, “Abrasive Hallucinations”, which coincidentally serves as both a barometer of expectations and a tidy, six-minute summary: The calm opening is a harbinger of the apocalypse that awaits; a fuzzy, distorted guitar mindlessly squeals in the periphery, buried under the dense reverb of the clean guitar in the foreground; the drums crescendo several times and drop out at the apex; a quick segue of measured riffing and post-rock thrumming eclipses—almost as a sly feint—before launching into full-blown calamity. Thick enclosures of tremolos, blast beats, and raspy, guttural vocals swallow you whole, leaving little room to catch your breath.
Until another minute or so later, that is, when the drums cease the madness and temper into a metered, anthematic pounding of the toms, accompanied by some of the most delicious low-level growling I’ve heard—the guitars back away from the furious picking and settle into a series of high-pitched sustains, establishing a cumulative mood with the vocals that resembles doom at its most stunningly ethereal. This is the kind of music that no amount of flowery language could appropriately describe—my reaction to this was instant magnetism, my knee-jerk tendencies to nitpick tossed aside as I sat in awe of the miraculous soundscape that towered over me. I wasn't just hearing this record, I was feeling
And we’re not even through the first track yet. But with that expansive opener, Vukari demonstrated a wider range of sounds and abilities in six minutes than they did across the entirety of their previous release, Divination
; a good album, but one that suffered from a lack of variation, as if it were inherently pigeonholed by the genre-label the band thought
it should carry. Here, it’s obvious that Vukari couldn’t care less if you wanna call ‘em atmospheric metal, or doom metal, or post-metal, or blackgaze, or whatever obnoxious portmanteau you can whip up; they’re simply playing what they want to play, unrestricted by meaningless expectations, confident that their sound will speak for itself. And my god, does it ever.
Circling back to my introductory algebra, I specifically mention Mgla (as a whole) and Deafheaven’s Sunbather
not merely because Aevum
could be a theoretical crosspollination of two, but because it quells the criticisms most often heaved at those respective entities. Dissenters of Mgla: "Yeah, they’re good, but this album sounds just like the last one, which sounded just like the one before that…”
Likewise, objectors of Sunbather
will lament that it’s “not heavy enough” or “not black enough” or “too soft” or [insert generic, emasculatory remark]. Aevum
, on the other hand, falls victim to no such troubles: Varied and dynamic enough without growing unwieldy or cumbersome, making uncanny bedfellows of darkness, melody, brutality, and elegance. Try to administer any of the aforementioned critiques to this and you’ll quickly see how silly it sounds.
Vukari hasn’t reinvented the wheel with Aevum
, but they needn’t; this is a gargantuan step in the right direction, and a refreshingly unique entry in a subgenre that tends to engender hours upon hours of painfully similar conformity year after year. Sure, it may wear its influences on its sleeve a bit too proudly at times, but the culmination of elements and touchpoints is successfully repurposed into something wholly distinct and separable. I wouldn’t recommend this to “metal” fans, I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys music, full stop. Prescribing this to a small subset of people based on two or three-word descriptors is a disservice to the breadth embodied within. Just give it a listen and thank me later.