VOLA are highly unusual in their approach to modern progressive metal. The most apt description I can define is prog-power by way of djent, offering the catchy melodies of Anubis Gate and Voyager but executed with the staccato, modern heaviness of a post-Meshuggah era. It’s a combination seemingly at odds with itself, boasting wholesome, natural vocal melodies with extensive electronic characteristics and studio-work. However, Inmazes doesn’t just work, it excels. Afford me a few minutes to explain why.
There is no questioning that VOLA is hyper-melodic and therein lies much of Inmazes‘s appeal. Asger Mygind’s vocals are immediately solid on the opener, “The Same War,” but upon reaching the chorus it’s clear just how buttery-smooth they really are. He demonstrates a greater range than many a metal vocalist, particularly in the record’s calmer moments such as “Emily.” The gentle lines sung at 1:35 are really powerful and strangely evocative of Coldplay‘s Chris Martin. Martin Werner on the keys and programming is an important tool in this agreeable atmosphere too. The piano-style melody at 3:12 on “Owls” offers a great juxtaposition to the following guitar lead which picks up the same melody, and the trip-hop beat on the aforementioned “Emily” is appropriately muted and subtle to complement Mygind’s gentle voice. Aside from such particular examples, synths underpin pretty much everything and harmonize well with the guitar-work.
Speaking of which, I wouldn’t want to under-emphasize the qualities which ensure this very much remains in the realms of metal. There is a grounding in djent upon which these melodies are constructed and satisfactorily contrasted with surprisingly heavy rhythms and leads. The principle riff on “Stray the Skies” hits that spot between smart and headbang-inducing, produced with a modern tone which I acknowledge may aggravate some but unquestionably fits the overall package. “Starburn” ups the ante as one of the highlights and is led from the front by arguably the best riff on the record. The opening riff on “A Stare Without Eyes” is the closest to djent’s origins in the likes of Meshuggah, boasting great technicality and that synaesthetic quality of feeling its wrapping itself around your brain.
Unlike Meshuggah however, song-writing is never abandoned in favor of tech wankery. Inmazes is an album composed of actual songs which click and will knock about your head for ages. There’s no grand concept as far as I can judge and it’s easy to pick up and leave off from wherever in its ten-track duration. It does, of course, function perfectly well if heard all at once but its bite-sized structure makes it that much more appealing for easy listening. Particular highlights include the aforementioned “Starburn,” “Stray the Skies,” the concluding title track and the well-judged ‘ballad’, “Emily.”
In all, the inherent knack for melody and crunchy guitar hooks combine to compose a surprisingly excellent début from these Danes. The industrial tone taken on to complement the djent isn’t aided by the limited dynamic range, rendering a slightly lifeless quality to the guitars, but the excellent melodies definitely overcome this deficiency. Inmazes has consistently remained in my rotation since first hearing it and it comes as an easy recommendation at a name-your-price offer.
Tracks to check: “Starburn,” “Stray the Skies,” “Inmazes,” “Emily”