Review Summary: More personal, yet more extrovert
Five years between two releases is a long time, especially to those who were blown away by Villagers of Ioannina City’s debut, Riza
. The Greek outfit’s rich sound that blended stoner rock, folk instruments and psychedelia, was not just successful, but quite original. So when the first single from their sophomore effort was released, it was met with a sense of excitement and a hint of disappointment by some.
You see, compared to its predecessor, Age of Aquarius
is less direct, less immediate for the Greek fans of the band but more accessible to all the rest. Whereas on Riza
the wind instruments were on the forefront, here they complement the songs, and the use of English lyrics makes it easier to understand the concept of this release. The way the album begins with the intro and the slow-burning title track is an indication that this time the Greek outfit is not looking for a “wow factor” by placing the clarinet and the bagpipe on the spotlight. They are rather equal parts of a very organic mix, so it’s not a surprise that a woodwind instrument appears for the first time almost 10 minutes into the album. Additionally, the clarinet enters in a rather subtle way, which is way different than how it was used on Riza
, where it was even louder than the guitars. This almost feels like a statement from the Greek outfit: “This is who we are right now, don’t expect our usual pyrotechnics”. And the truth is that, initially, that approach didn’t work for me, but given the time it deserves, AoA
is quite rewarding. The focus here is on creating a relaxing, trippy atmosphere, which I guess is one of the reasons that “Part V” continues where the title track left off.
Right after the dronish start, VIC’s folk influences come into play, with some of the most uplifting tracks of the LP. The sound of the clarinet and the bagpipe help in forming a relatively distinctive sound, which combined with melodies hailing from the mountains of Epirus, create much-needed dynamics. The emotional “Dance of Night” features a clarinet solo and one of the most memorable riffs of the album, while “Father Sun” is the closest this album gets to Riza
. Of course, for an LP that clocks at one hour and fine minutes, some variety is needed. On “Millennium Blues”, the Greeks are not afraid to incorporate a reggae rhythm which develops into a cathartic finish with female vocals, whereas “Cosmic Soul”, with its driving rhythm, is one of the most spacey tracks. On the contrary, “For the Innocent” is not only the shortest but also the most immediate song on here.
Eventually, if Riza
was the culmination of everything the band was doing up until that point, AoA
reeks of evolution; a conscious effort towards a new age for the band. The trip continues, but this time around it’s not on some mountain of Northern Greece, but floating in the never-ending universe. Eventually, both albums feel like they came out of nowhere, took the listener by surprise, and kicked him right on the balls. Well-played.