June 2, 2017

Völur - Ancestors

By Justin C. So how do we categorize a trio of drums, violin, and bass with two vocalists? Well, bassist/vocalist Lucas Gadke (also of Blood Ceremony), in an interview with Burning Ambulance, says, "First and foremost, we are a doom band", so let's go with that.
By Justin C.


So how do we categorize a trio of drums, violin, and bass with two vocalists? Well, bassist/vocalist Lucas Gadke (also of Blood Ceremony), in an interview with Burning Ambulance, says, "First and foremost, we are a doom band", so let's go with that. It does fit--the music is slow and deliberate--but as in so many cases, it's far from the full story.

For some metal fans, Völur's Ancestors is going to be a big ask. You'll be pressed to hear anything "metal" in a basic sense until nearly halfway through the 15-minute opener, "Breakers of Silence." But for those open-minded enough, I urge you to stick around. Throughout the album, you're treated to a mix of clean and harsh vocals from Gadke and violinist Laura Bates. Sometimes the vocals harmonize to great effect, even when one is harsh and the other clean. Bates's violin does triple duty, sometimes classical sounding, sometimes folky, and sometimes as a distorted, ripping substitute for a lead guitar. Gadke's bass duties are similarly diverse, switching up between clean and distorted bass guitar as well as double bass, moving between melodic and rhythmic duties, and all anchored by the just-what's-needed drumming of Jimmy Payment (also of Do Make Say Think, who are also excellent).

Völur 2014. Photos by Danielle Griscti.

What's the listening experience like? That's a tough summation. After the more languid opener, the next track, "Breaker of Skulls," has a sound both harsher and more occult. The descending bass line underneath eerie violin is classic, witchy doom. But as you'll find if you read the interview I linked before, the band's drawing from a lot of influences and genres, and your ears should confirm that. The halfway point of "Skulls" sees the violin playing some of the most overtly folky material on the album, but it's a fleeting moment before the song moves into more mournful sounds.

One of the things I like best about this album is that the band pulls so much in and in such a fresh way, there are rarely moments when you can sum them up as just "folk-influenced" or "death-doom" or anything else that tickles your ears. All the influence is pulled into their own, fresh perspective and singular sound, and that's no easy trick. Sure, the songs are long and might seem drone-ish on occasion (although the whole album still clocks in under an hour), but keep those ears open. Themes are stated and reappear. Vocal and instrumental lines twist around each other. There's never a point when the songs repeat themselves for no good reason. The music might be a slow burn, but it will carry you along if you let it.

The band says that this album is the second in a four-album cycle. The first, Disir, dealt with feminine myths, whereas Ancestors deals with Disir's masculine counterparts. The third will apparently turn its attention to gods and goddesses, and in the Burning Ambulance interview, Gadke hints at the possibility of even more diverse instrumentation. Sometimes life interferes with the best-intentioned bands, but I hope they pull off the full four-album concept. I'm definitely in.

Tagged with 2017, atmospheric folk metal, doom metal, Justin C, Prophecy Productions
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