By Justin C. I had some trouble starting this review. I really enjoyed Vanum's debut, Realm of Sacrifice, very much, and my feelings about their new EP, Burning Arrow, are similarly positive. Putting that feeling into words, however, was proving difficult.By Justin C.
|Cover Art by Todd Ryan White.|
I had some trouble starting this review. I really enjoyed Vanum's debut, Realm of Sacrifice, very much, and my feelings about their new EP, Burning Arrow, are similarly positive. Putting that feeling into words, however, was proving difficult. Vanum play black metal, and on this particular EP, there's a martial, and perhaps triumphant feel to the music, but why was I finding it so hard to pin down?
I was finally able to get some insight from reading Invisible Orange's excellent interview with Michael Rekevics, who, along with Kyle Morgan, makes up Vanum. The interview makes clear some of the dualities in this EP, and those dualities make the music both compelling but somewhat hard to describe. Rekevics talks about Jung's ideas about introspection and self-actualization as inspirations, so clearly we're dealing with material that's a bit more cerebral than the typical ode to Satan/Cthulhu. But those thoughts are delivered in one of the more distinctive and harrowing voices in black metal right now. Rekevics’s vocals are the kind of hoarse bellows you'd expect to hear from a warrior confronting an arch enemy. Of course, introspection could very well be seen as a confrontation with a formidable enemy, so maybe the vocals are a better fit for Jung than what one might initially expect.
As for the music itself, it can feel lush and melodic, but as Jon Rosenthal suggests in the IO interview, it's also muscular at the same time. It turns out that there are as many as 24 recorded layers on this EP, and although they add texture, they also add a contrasting amount of punch. I also like that there's a raw feeling to the recording, but the obvious care put into the structure of the music keeps it from having any of the downsides of a raw, lo-fi recording.
I've been lucky enough to see Vanum, Vilkacis, and Yellow Eyes--three of Rekevics's many projects--and his stage presence is as magnetic and intense as his recorded vocals suggest. I found myself drawn to him while simultaneously fearing that he might shoot lasers of pure black metal intensity out of his eyes at any moment. I highly recommend the experience, but even if you don't get a chance to see them live, Burning Arrow is a great place to start digging into Vanum, as well as the other projects these two exceptional musicians are involved with.