Back in 2015, myself and Kronos were taken with Denmark’s VOLA and their debut album entitled Inmazes, to such an extent that I wrote about it at the year’s end. I was shocked and dismayed that we missed it on the first go around and resolved to keep a weather eye on the musical horizon to not miss another release. Alas, October 12th rushed by and a sophomore release went with it. Now it falls on me to once more make amends and remind our readership of my increasingly poseur taste in metal1.
Applause represents an exaggerated version of VOLA from that which we saw on Inmazes. It simultaneously features more pop, more electronica and more djent, leaving an album which feels particularly maximal. Hooks abound, from Asger Mygin’s smooth vocals to hard, headbangable grooves in the guitars, all the way to light, effervescent keyboard melodies. It’s not an album which necessitates gestation before it embeds; the big melodies and gratuitous immediacy swiftly turned my head. The verse-chorus structure is typical with calmer versus giving way to energetic choruses with huge hooks. Despite this predictability, VOLA still sound fresh, two years on from their striking debut, given their singular fusion of pop, djent and electronica.
In fact, Applause is so poppy that it’s sure to aggravate our trver readership. This is particularly the case now that the equivalents to “Emily” from Inmazes are not just a one-off as previously; there are now three softer tracks. “Ruby Pool” is an early highlight with delightful vocals and scales in its chorus, while the record concludes with “Green Screen Mother,” again with highly emotive vocal and keyboard melodies. “Vertigo” is the third and falls somewhere between a track-proper and an interlude, offering a soft, subdued moment to counter-point the often angular riffs and high energy discernible elsewhere. I hasten to add that each is evocative and each is a worthy addition to the album’s entirety.
Turning to the record’s heavier elements, even the harshness of the industrial influences from Inmazes have been assuaged. The musicianship is still incredibly proficient but the recording is slightly looser and rougher, resulting in a more ‘natural’ sound. The tone is clean and fresh, rather than clean and sterile. On musicianship, it would be remiss to omit the excellent guitars; despite my earlier descriptions, make no mistake that this is a metal record. Djenting guitars offer opportunities aplenty to headbang with awesome grooves which carry most tracks. Shocking technicality and off-tempo rhythms demonstrating the progressive heart pumping the varying influences around this body. In fact, one of my favorite moments from 2018 was watching metalheads attempt to headbang to these guys’ odd time signatures at Damnation Festival recently.
In all, Applause is a collection of compulsive songs which makes for a compulsive album. I have found myself reaching to replay it when I should have been working on review albums and preparing my thoughts for my year-end list. VOLA is coolness personified and exemplified and Applause is one of most addicting albums I heard in 2018.
Tracks to Check Out: “Ruby Pool”, “Alien Shivers”, “Whaler”