Written By: Lokasenna

Norway. A country home to a beautiful language, gorgeous fjords, and hideous metal. While most, including me, associate the country with black metal, there are other brands attempting to make their mark, including this offering, Vanora. Playing a mixture of djent and more traditional progressive metal that feels distinctly of the current trends in metal, Vanora‘s debut Momentum claims to promise sharp riffage, a nice mixture of singing and growling, and big, heady synth lines. Wait, what?

The record kicks off in somewhat peculiar fashion, with the longest, most melodic song, “Mask.” The track boasts a blend of clean and harsh work from vocalist Konrad Sandvik as well as a good deal of balance between the polyrhythmic crunch of the guitar and bass and the textural variety provided by the synthesizers. The second track, “Stamina,” immediately cranks up the aggression in both lyrical and musical approach, albeit in a very…bro-y manner that unfortunately reminds of Five Finger Death Punch; this is likely (hopefully) an ESL issue that will improve with time. Other good cuts include the paranoid, sinister stylings of “Laughing Windows” and “Pariah.” Both cuts are aided enormously by the synthesizer work, as the riffage boasts too much crunch to build sufficient atmosphere by itself.

Unfortunately, that’s a total of four decent-to-good tracks out of eight. Much of remainder of the album, concentrated in the middle of the thing, is far too chug-oriented in a way that leads the listener to either tune out or, given the polyrhythyms, wish they were listening to Meshuggah instead. The dead-center of the album also features a short interlude called (insert self-demonstration joke here) “Metronome.” The interlude would work well to provide breathing room between the two dense, chug-heavy tracks it’s between, but the track is so nondescript as to be an absolute waste; better to replace it with a synth section like those in “Mask” or “Laughing Windows.” As an additional note, the choice to make “Pariah” a bonus track is utterly baffling – without it, the album clocks in at a scant 32 minutes, accentuating the duller selections and lending the impression of a shortage of songwriting ideas.

Regarding individual performances, I find myself somewhat stymied. The production here is fairly dense, and deciphering individual performances is made more difficult than need be as a result. A cold first listen led to outright surprise at the presence of two guitarists, and the bass is…there, somewhere, in the polyrhythms and chugging. Drummer Elias Pellicer is at least not completely buried, but similarly failed to impress in a meaningful way. Thus, the only real sections attracting comment are Sandvik’s vocals and the synthesizer additions. Sandvik’s cleans, while not up to power metal quality, could really shine with further practice, and the Jens Kidman impersonation of his screams is nothing but admirable, whether it be by accident or design. Conversely, the promo information offers no credit for the aforementioned synthesizer lines, and it’s a shame as these are a high point and could be used to elevate future releases. As usual, the master is unnecessarily compressed, albeit not horribly. In this case, however, it sounds like the master is contributing to the decipherment issues created by the mix, and thus the accentuating the overall feeling of blandness.

Overall, while a few tracks stand out, the meat of the album unfortunately blurs together into a chunky mush, and the good cuts fail to stick in the brain well enough for this to make much more than background music. It’s not inept by any means, but instead sinks into the pitfall of failing to impress in any meaningful way; which is a damn shame in a progressive release.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 |  Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Crime Records
Websites: facebook.com/ThisIsNotVanora | vanora.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: September 1st, 2017

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  • Septic

    You had me at “chunky mush”…

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I can’t tell if you’re joking or being serious but either way your comment is awesome.

      • Septic

        After reading those words together in sequence, I was strongly compelled to ignore Vanora altogether…hahaha

  • Kronos

    Good review. One has to wonder why so many of these middling djent albums come out. Who is buying? What’s the preference?

    • Yolo Swaggins

      Trust me; in 20 years Djent will be the hipster’s shit.

    • Lokasenna

      Thanks, Kronos! I’ve been wondering the same thing, myself.

  • Nukenado

    It’s a shame that you can hear “prog” and guess 90% what it’s like.
    That’s bullshit. Prog should be exciting. Prog should be experimental…

    But enough ranting out of me. I want to try the nice synth sections you mentioned, but I don’t want to put Bad Religion on hold to listen to this.

    • welyyt

      Djent shouldn’t be considered progressive in any way now: the only band that did anything interesting with the sound after Meshuggah were Vildhjarta, and everything after that has sounded pretty much the same. I mean, the genre’s sonic palette is so limited, it’s no wonder everything blurs together.

      Speaking about exciting prog, have you heard this year’s Akercocke and DVNE? Also, Sentient Ignition do some pretty interesting stuff on their debut, Persefone push the Dream Theater formula to the extreme (in a good way), and all of that’s just 2017 releases.

      • Nukenado

        I haven’t gotten around to Akercocke yet, Persefone isn’t my thing, but I havn’t heard the others you described. I’m currently binging Pseudo/Sentai and Madder Mortem…
        I’ll try your recommendations… Thanks!

      • Nukenado

        Oh shit Sentient Ignition’s good. I can’t find it anything prog though…
        Which probably means the prog-ness is integrated beautifully.

      • Nag Dammit

        The only way to progress the djent dgenre is to add more strings. Dthen dit dwill dbe dawesome. Diggity diggity djenty do.

      • brutal_sushi

        Uneven Structure – Februus my dude!

  • Christopher

    Djent is garbage and most “progressive metal” falls woefully short of being either progressive or metal.

  • Planex

    Metal with the “djent” tag usually doesn’t deserve the “progressive” tag. It also usually doesn’t deserve a score higher than 2.

  • Master of Muppets

    I liked this just a bit more than most things that djent these days, but that’s not really saying much. Of the whole 0000000 craze, only Vildjharta and Uneven Structure really continue to stand out for me. Solid writeup, and you definitely could have been stuck with something far worse.

    • brutal_sushi

      Februus for days!

      • Master of Muppets

        I do still wish La Partition had connected with me more, but they’ve done no wrong yet. I wish Vildjharta would do something cool sometime soon, though.

        • brutal_sushi

          La Partition hit me after a few consecutive spins. But its not as fantastic as Februus was. I think its missing the soft spaciness that Februus had. Plus the mix is all over the fucking place. Februus sounded so clean and huge. I think a remastering of La Partition would really really help that album

  • Czech Czort

    But does it djent?

  • Sophocles

    Slightly offtopic, but it’s time for the new Daydream XI review. I can’t wait for AngrA Metal Guy’s opinion…

  • sir_c

    I was born in a time when ‘to chug’ meant an activity to get intoxicated as promptly as humanly possible.
    This chugging here is just lukewarm diarrhea dribbling down your leg into a cold wet heap around your ankles.

  • Shuffel

    dont blame this lame… putting the prog in norway? …hmmm .. Dødheimsgard, Ved Buens ende, Leprous, Old mans child, Ihsahn, Dead to this world, Aura noir, In the woods, Thorns, Motorpsycho, Ulver….WAKE UP!!