Vouna – Atropos Review

Vouna was one of my first reviews here at AMG. While I certainly feel dated by the release of Atropos, it also allows me time to reflect. Sole member Yianna Bekris has undoubtedly honed her craft, and I’d like to think that I have as well, even as the morale-boosting beatings continue and the terrifying ape-in-charge keeps staring at me from the dark corner over there. An associate of Wolves in the Throne Room’s Weaver brothers, Bekris took me completely off-guard with Vouna’s self-titled debut in 2018, an effort dubbed “funeral doom” but was anything but the bellowing subterranean lurching we’ve come to know and love. Atropos offers a huge step forward, adding a healthy dose of obscurity and an unrelentingly bleak atmosphere to sink your teeth into.

While funeral doom was certainly one head of the Vouna Hydra in tempo, atmosphere, and Skepticism-esque key abuse, it was also rounded out by unorthodox flavors such as folk melodies and instruments, vintage synthesizers, mournful vocals, and moments of blackened fury. Strange and paradoxical moments of ancientness and nostalgic electronics collided in an ambitious but ultimately flawed album that tried too hard to meet listeners where they were. Atropos, by contrast, heightens the doomy heft and blackened atmosphere while grounding the folk flavors and dungeon synth tones, creating a far darker and more mournful beast that downright refuses human contact. Evocative, multifaceted, and just plain huge, it improves upon Vouna in almost every way, even if it’s hindered by its massive length1 and an inconsistent second act.

Vouna consisted of tracks that provided interesting tricks while allowing for listener accessibility; it was easy to appreciate Bekris’ offerings without getting lost in them. Atropos, by contrast, finds Vouna diving headfirst into the abyss, five tracks of humid thickness and mournful attitude, likening the album to acts such as Kauan or Agalloch: thick fog enveloping the isolated mountain ridge as a light snow begins to drift across a traveler’s weary visage. Focusing more deeply on the expression of bleak soundscapes, absolutely colossal tracks “Highest Mountain” and “Vanish” utilize a haze of synthesizers and Nathan Weaver’s formidable roars alongside the mighty weight of the guitars, while “Grey Sky” and “What Once Was” reside in the synth-driven territory reminiscent of Vouna’s debut, recalling the bleakest moods Katatonia ever accomplished. Much like its predecessor, you’d be hard-pressed to find a project that uses the vast array of influences and moods that Bekris offers, although Atropos’ inaccessibility succeeds more profoundly.

Vouna’s folk dimension now takes the form of Agalloch’s moody acoustic pieces, as seen in interlude “What Once Was (Reprise),” but the true departure from the debut is seen in the newer dependence on guitars. Formerly synth-driven with mere flourishes of blackened tremolo riffs, the monolithic weight of doom riffs dominate Atropos, giving the ancient natural atmosphere a darker flavor, as the thunderous and addictive percussion is more commanding alongside its natural habitat. While Bekris’ unwavering approach to vocals still recalls the depressive apathy of Warning’s Patrick Walker or Subrosa’s Rebecca Vernon, she newly employs tasteful hints of Gothic operatism (“Highest Mountain”) and ritualistic chanting (“Grey Sky”), while the inclusion of Weaver’s roars take “Vanish” to more ominous depths. Blackened flavors exist in blastbeats and tremolo that punctuate the end of “Grey Sky” and climactic passages of “What Once Was.” While I’m glad Bekris included these, they nonetheless create a bit of a lopsided listen, the most mournful synth passages in these tracks existing alongside the most upbeat blackened moments with frail transition, while the doom-focused first half offers the most well-rounded songwriting.

Vouna’s debut felt like a juxtaposition of its many influences, and while unique, didn’t feel cohesive or have a lasting impact. Atropos finds Bekris creating her most inaccessible album yet — and is all the better for it. While immense and exhausting — and once more finding her grasp exceeding her reach — Atropos creates a soundtrack of submission, opacity, and mourning with a complete disregard for meeting its listeners where they are. Professionally crafted and relentlessly bleak, Vouna’s latter-half tracks could stand a fair bit of trimming and smoothing, but to follow up the debut with a sophomore effort with this much blatant improvement suggests Bekris’ extremely high potential. A project that continues to offer more promise than it delivers, Atropos nonetheless provides vast doom wilderness aplenty to explore.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Profound Lore Records
Websitesvouna.bandcamp.com facebook.com/vounametal
Releases Worldwide: July 16th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. I can totally relate. – Holdeneye
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