26 Aug 2021 - Knut
Funeral Doom Metal | Profound Lore | Release date: 16 Jul 2021
When a harp plays the first chords on the new Vouna album, Atropos, there is no indication that this is the start of a remarkable Funeral Doom album. But when the synths introduce the crystal-clear voice hovering over heavy doom riffs and the drumming with the rhythm of a funeral march sets in, you know what you are in for. Vouna´s album is a slow paced rural pastoral from the Cascadian mountains composed, played and recorded at the Owl Lodge Studio by the multitalented composer and artist behind this one-person band, Yianna Bekris. She plays most of the instruments herself, but has invited some guest musicians to join on the album.
On the first track, ”Highest Mountain”, the slow-paced riff laden music is overtaken by a mournful solo guitar before it quiets down with only an acoustic guitar leading the musical theme until the slow paced riffs, drumming and synths take over once again. The vocals cutting through the track are as clear as the sky on the summit of a mountain. The track clocks in at around ten minutes. Apart from the acoustic intermezzo, ”What Once Was (Reprise)”, this is the shortest track on the album with the rest lasting 15 minutes. They are long enough to unveil vast Funeral Doom soundscapes. While the band´s first album was also a sort of a Funeral Doom album, it dipped its synth-laden soundscape more into Darkwave. On this second album, the doom-laden guitar riffs take as much place as the synths while the music in some parts still borders to Darkwave.
Funeral Doom Metal might by some be considered as repetitive and not dynamic. But when Bekris uses her imaginative and multifaceted musical capability to evolve the music it is far from repetitive. The floating, unfolding and multilayered soundscapes she creates is immense. The second track, ”Vanish, starts its 15 minutes with the mighty kettledrum before layers of heavy riffs, organ and drums take over the sedate music. On this track Bekris´ use of a multitude of instruments begins. And deep down in the abyss of this dark and almost dense track the growling voice of Nathan Weaver appears. Soon the growling vocals are met with the angelic voice of Bekris and the music is lifted to a lighter tone. Weaver´s growling comes back and the rhythm paces faster in the dense melodic soundscape.
As with the other two long tracks there is not one dull moment as the music is driven slowly towards a soundscape that is overtaken by melodic and soaring synths. It is like resting on the forest floor looking up at the mountain top you soon will climb. That might be because the band´s name is Greek for mountains. The album´s name is also connected to the Greek myth of the three goddesses Moirai that weaved the threads of fate and destiny of humans. Atropos was the one who cut the thread and chose the manner of death for the mortal humans. They are some equivalent to the Norns of Norse mythology.
The fourth track,”Grey Sky”,reveals the soundscape with the synths playing a melody that becomes darker and more mournful as the vocal takes shape. The heavy slow guitar riffing takes over with the synths soaring over the slow pacing music. A mournful guitar solo leads the music into a light soundscape with clean instruments before the heavy distorted riffs return. Towards the end the drums pick up pace to almost blast beats, but even with this the vocal and the synths with the distorted guitars hold back the pace and lead to a slow and towering crescendo with angelic vocals.
The last track,”What Once Was”, might be the most cinematic in a string of cinematic tracks. Mighty riffs in a hazy multitude of instruments laying out the melodic soundscape. Fast drums held back by the slow guitar and synth before, guided by deep synths, are guided into a dark cave to wait for light that might not come. The music slowly begins to find its way out of the cave, a piano gives hope, an organ introduces the fast drums to let the light in. The majestic music lifts us out of the cave. The echo-laden vocals are soaring above and leading to a heavy slow soundscape that fades out into nothing. The journey through the life threads has ended and is cut off.
Bekris has herself mentioned My Drying Bride as an early inspiration. The album is mixed by Greg Chandler of Esoteric so there might be a nod to this band as well as Skepticism of Finland and Ea. But the multilayered funeral march pace of this album is also reminiscent of ”Trauermarsch”, the first movement of the the 5th symphony of Gustav Mahler. And the way Bekris uses vocal effects also evokes Sally Oldfield´s vocals on albums with her brother Mike Oldfield, especially the Incantations album. Saying this, it is just to remind you that this is music to be listened to on your headphones, music to be immersed in and captured by. It is an hour-long cinematic journey into darkness and beauty engrossed in the timbre of the dark and nearly opaque and hazy mellow soundscape of Vouna.