Votum_KTONIKAMG recently dropped this album by Poland’s Votum in my promo bin with a snarky remark about how I love “sadboy doom-prog.” Naturally, I denied it and retorted with a series of choice names, but when the time came to actually sit down and listen to :KTONIK:, Votum‘s fourth full-length, I was forced to admit I did love the sadboy post-rock prog metal being laid down. And how can you not love dark, moody and introspective music borrowing heavily from Anathema, Ghost Brigade and A Swarm of the Sun? That’s right, you can’t! Blameless and with head held high, I accept the mantle of sadboy prog lover, but with the caveat that it has to be done right, and for the most part that’s just how Votum does it. :KTONIK: isn’t a perfect album but it’s one rich in emotion and mood – cathartic to the wounded and impactful to the empathetic. Enough so that I’m willing to forego my shallow nature and look past that Atari 2600 album cover to find the true beauty within.

Votum wastes no time hooking the listener with opener “Satellite” – a strong contender for Song o’ the Year. It’s a brooding, bleak but accessible union of Anathema, Katatonia and depressive alt-rock and when the ginormous, super-catchy chorus hits, singer Bartosz Sobieraj blows the roof off the house with a killer performance. It’s the kind of song you replay before it’s half over because it’s THAT good! The balance between melodic singing and heavy, almost djenty riffs is near perfect and discordant guitar effects provide a Tool-ish vibe to keep things extra dark. Follow up “Greed” begins as a very Weather Systems sounding song before plunging into much heavier, Ghost Brigade-esque realms of glumness as Sobieraj adopts a throaty, bellowing vocal style to fit the doomy sound. It works really well and by this point I found myself wondering who the hell these guys were and why I wasn’t already aware of them.

The curse of opening an album with a huge one-two punch is the pressure to follow it with equally captivating material. Votum struggles a bit here, with the songs taking a noticeable drop by the album mid-point. “Blackened Tree” and “Simulacra” are decent, but not up to the level of the opener and require a few listens to really take hold. The album recovers quickly with “Prometheus” which is a highly effective, engagingly dark ballad, and Sobieraj vocals are beautiful, fragile and touching. Sometimes he sounds like a near suicidal Eddie Vedder if you can imagine that, and it’s tough to avoid getting caught up in the song’s dark emotions. “Horizontal” and “Vertical” both offer rich, gloomy soundscapes with big payoffs at chorus time, with the latter having a strong Fall of the Leafe vibe I love muchly.

Votum_2016a

What makes :KTONIK: such an interesting listen is how many bands they remind you of without mimicking any one act. Aside from the aforementioned influences, the careful listener might pick out hints of AgallochSolstafir and Only Living Witness, and most oddly, a strong grunge undercurrent (Bush flashed through my mind on several occasions). Most importantly, it’s the first album to ever remind me of Another Messiah‘s awesome Dark Dreams, My Child album.

Sobieraj is the lynch-pin of the material’s success and his multi-faceted, emotional performance makes the songs pop. He wasn’t around when AMG reviewed their Metafiction album back in 2010 and the man definitely elevates the band to the next level. The closest reference point is Manne Ikonen from Ghost Brigade but this guy is better with a broader range. He almost immediately became one of my favorite singers in this genre and I’m very impressed by what he does here. The often heavy backing riffs by Adam Kaczmarek and Piotr Lniany make sure the music never feels too soft or watered down and they keep things grounded in metal regardless of how sadboy the vocals may get at times.

:KTONIK: is an impressive little piece of downer post-rock with one foot in goth and one in prog. It’s also a titanic leap from what the band did in the past and it makes me excited to hear what they do next. Considering I went from completely unaware of their existence to excited for their future in about 2 spins of this album, maybe that should be a sign you should check this out. Now get out there and Votum!


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Mystic Productions
Websites: votumband.plfacebook.com/votumpage
Releases Worldwide: February 26th, 2016

 

 

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  • William Hebblewhite

    Damn….This album sounds amazing. That embedded song is exactly what I want in music.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I wanna Votum, but I have to waitum until the 26th.

    • METAL OTTER

      Why not bide your :ktime with a gin and :ktonik:

      • Monsterth Goatom

        :k

  • Steven Wilson

    Huge song! Give me more!

  • HMG

    Excellent!

  • Stoked this got your steely stamp of approval! I know what I’ll be listening to this coming week.

  • Boter

    Another Messiah! Didn’t know anyone ever heard our record, k’cept in some parts of the Netherlands. That, and the fact that Steel was the one to mention us, I might say, made my day, week, month and, probably, year.

    • Heard it, loved it, still spin it often! Great to hear from you!

      • Boter

        That is awesome. I am flattered, astounded, proud and a little surprised that something we created is still being appreciated and listened to in places far from here. Thank you!

        I used to play the bass guitar in Another Messiah. We still get together occasionally, but only for beers. The band still remains on hold, unfortunately. We got kids and careers and whatnot. Still, your contribution just might make the more stubborn former band members more willing to give it another (pun intended) try in the future. I’m certainly inspired by it. We’ll see.

        • Wow, I recall Dark Dreams getting pretty decent buzz in the States when it released and I always wondered why there was no follow up album. Get the band back together, dammit!

  • These guys have gotten way, way better. This sounds really good.

  • robpal

    February 26 is THE DAY in 2016 prog world. Votum, Headspace, Redemption and Sunburst dropping on the same day!
    Can’t wait to hear them all.

    • PS-RagE

      OK, I already have the first three pre-ordered. “Sunburst”?

      • robpal

        Suprisingly catchy power/prog from Greece. Just debuting but already signed to Inner Wounds Rrcordings. They have two videos on YT: “Out Of The World” and “Dementia”, their singer reminds me of Roy Khan.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    This song is really sweet. Definitely putting this album in my Amazon cart for next month.

  • Hot damn, that embedded track is magnificent. Dude really does sound like a goth/death/doom version of Eddie Vedder.

  • Krzystov

    So much Polish metal reviewed on this site! THANK YOU!

  • basenjibrian

    Am listening to Harvest Moon right now. An enjoyable listen-some interesting melodic treatments here. I like the vocals as well.
    Am a newcomer to Riverside as well….and I MAY like them a bit more, but both bands are now in my library thanks to the nefarious bank account draining influence of AMG!

    • Harvest Moon is a good album but the band definitely stepped up when they got this singer onboard.

  • What a nice surprise: this clip was shot in my hometown; I recognise here the old quarry where I used to play as a kid. Now I really have to take a closer look at those guys:)
    Also, it’s a good opportunity to finally say hello to everyone, after long months of just daily reading all those fantastic reviews.

    • Where is that quarry located?

      And welcome aboard, Bart!

      • Głuszyca, near the Polish-Czech border. Amon Amarth’s “Guardians of Asgaard” was shot nearby, in huge complex of Hitler’s underground headquarters – our biggest tourist attraction. There’s many more to see, so… welcome!

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Hoping this is the record of the month, because then you can make a VotM pun.

    Oh, and it is sounding mindbogglingly good from what’s been said, and the embedded track. This is some real damn good stuff.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    You have a new Australian fan! I’ll be waiting for your tour Down Under!

  • robpal

    Widzimy się w Paryżu :)

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Am I the only one who thinks this would sound way better with a different singer/vocal style?

    • It’s the singer that really sells it for me, but to each their own.

  • Kronos

    Kronos thinks this is brutal enough. Also aren’t we due for a katatonia album this year?

    • Yep sometime later in year I think.

      • Kronos

        This is going to be the best year metal has ever seen

        • I find your lack of cynicism disturbing.

          • Kronos

            After party year’s shitshow I’m due for some good metal.

  • madhare

    Wow! This works. Bit like Anathema but without the annoying middle-aged hocus-pocus spiritual optimism! :P

  • sir_c

    Every now and them some diamonds emerge from Poland’s soil. What do they put in their wod… ehm.. water?
    This is pretty stunning stuff, I tell ya.

    • sir_c

      Oh, and I read somewhere they’re gonna tour with Kingcrow. Fucking Kingcrow! Let’s hope that it’s true

  • David D.

    Got my copy in the mail yesterday and it’s a fantastic record! Thank you for the recommendation

  • Joost

    I saw these guys yesterday in De Boerderij (Zoetermeer) and they were great, immediately bought the album and cant stop listening to it !!
    By the way their performance was way better than that of symphony x the week before, and I’m a huge symphony x fan.

  • robb

    you rule! Bartosz Sobieraj for president!

  • Robert Brooks

    I thought Time Must Have a Stop was very Alice In Chain-ish. I’m liking the new direction and the vocals of Sobieraj.

  • Requiem

    So… What makes this post-rock rather than just rock..?

    • GardensTale

      I have no clue. Just getting round to them but that bit eludes me, it doesn’t wander enough to warrant the moniker if you ask me.