Vorga – Striving Toward Oblivion Review

Space. Black metal. It’s a match made in heaven! People have been writing black metal albums about space for decades, and it doesn’t seem to matter how oversaturated that specific niche gets. Metalheads eat it up. I eat it up. Space is such a massive thing anyway that the possibilities are quite literally infinite to our comparatively minuscule imaginations, so in that way it makes sense that there’s always a new invader breaching the bulkheads. Enter Vorga and their debut full-length, Striving toward Oblivion. Already backed by a well-regarded label, the German troupe want to make big waves in black metal’s gravitational field. Do they have the thrust for such an undertaking?

Based on the album artwork alone, I anticipated something atmospheric, along the lines of Mare Cognitum and the like. This possesses an element of that, to be sure, but Striving toward Oblivion is surprisingly aggressive and straightforward overall, more closely comparable to acts like Kvaen and Imperialist, supplemented by a touch of black-n-roll Wormwitch-isms and Hyperion-ic musical storytelling. Vorga strike with sharp riffs aplenty, their blackened blade gliding gracefully across the cosmos, guided by a melodic muse eternally present. Blasts document and detail the destruction wrought by that blade, but interspersed between and around those blasts, disciplined militant lines march, reinforcing structure and composure as the dust settles. Bass guitar prefers to lurk in the shadows, rumbling and churning amongst clouds of stardust, biding its time for its own opportunities to take command.

Vorga take no prisoners on their debut, determined to stand out and stake their claim. Opener “Starless Sky” immediately rips a massive main riff armed to the teeth with scathing melodies swirling all around it. It recalls Imperialist’s no-nonsense approach, but Vorga’s execution is tighter, leaner and more cohesive. Thankfully, it’s not too repetitive either, offering a clean transition in the last third of the song to prime listeners for follow-ups “Comet” and “Disgust.” Aggressive in verses, but tender and emotive in choruses, these early numbers demonstrate Vorga’s knack for writing subtle, but effective, variations into riffs and reworking melodic phrases as songs progress. Album highlights “Stars My Destination” and “Fool’s Paradise” expand on that dynamism, exploding with deceivingly complex groupings of themes and melodious trem-picked counterpoints that evolve over time—and in the case of “Fool’s Paradise,” culminating in a crushing implosion of abject obliteration. “Last Transmission,” as a contrast, focuses on transcendent lead guitar work which, in concert with purposefully arranged repetition, create one of the most memorable moments manifested on Striving Toward Oblivion.

Each of Striving toward Oblivion’s songs gives me something substantial to return to, but a couple of cuts need trimming. “Taken,” the worst offender in the bloat category, contains cool riffs and a memorable collection of melodies swimming behind them, providing strong songwriting features in line with the rest of the album. However, the bridge fails to support its own bulk, coasting on the momentum created a minute earlier without contributing anything to help carry the song through to conclusion. Similarly, closer “Death Manifesting,” while opening strong with black-n-roll verve, reaches too far without enough variation or development to elevate the material further. Thankfully, whatever bloat that might exist in tracks one through six shrinks between the sinewy mass of muscular riffs and youthful energy, allowing it to be easily forgiven and quickly forgotten. Aside from that, I found very little to complain about in Striving Toward Oblivion, an impressive feat for such a young band.

Vorga turned out to be quite the pleasant surprise. With so little experience under their belt, I expected them to deliver something promising and enjoyable, but nothing with nearly the quality that Striving toward Oblivion offers. It’s just the right length at forty-five minutes—despite some song-by-song bloat in the last quarter—and packed to the brim with ripping riffs, neat transitions and lovely melodies. This debut might not be anything we haven’t heard before in the genre, but it’s still a great melodic black metal record that I wholeheartedly recommend to all metal-nauts spanning the solar system.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Websites: facebook.com/vorgaband | vorgaband.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: February 4th, 2022

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