Album Title: 
Release Date: 
Monday, November 18, 2019
Review Type: 

Armenia-based (Funeral) Doom label Funere once more comes up with a unique piece that twists with atmospheres and emotions. During its young existence, this label did release just a limited amount of things, but without exception all of them are quite unique in approach and professional in essence. Quite the same, evidently, goes for this debut recording by a mysterious Icelandic act.

Apparently, Vofa are a collective of four musicians, who prefer to remain anonymous. I just know that their musical backgrounds are legio: Doom, Death and Black Metal, Grindcore, as well as Hardcore and Punk, over Folk, to Electronic Music. Somehow the four of them felt the urge to concentrate on a bleaker vision of life, the link with happiness and / or depression, and a spiritual approach of humanity’s existence.

Three lengthy (all of them clocking in between twelve and thirteen minutes) compositions were recorded and eventually produced, mixed and mastered by some Thorsteinn Kari Guðmundsson, then gathered onto an untitled album. That one got pressed on compact disc (jewel case edition) in 500 copies, including a sober yet intriguing four-page booklet. Sober, because there is barely information (no names, no lyrics; just the visual artist, the studio and producer are mentioned). Intriguing, because of that artwork by Dutch photographer / designer Nona Limmen: a mystic band picture at the inner sleeve, mysterious yet truly beautiful cover artwork, and ritual / ceremonial symbolism.

The result gets released via higher mentioned Funere, in a partnership with another underestimated yet interesting label, Exhumed Records from Ecuadorian soil. This said…

The first composition has a short yet very frightening intro, but soon evolves towards a Post-Rock laden acoustic piece, with a fine guitar lead (Americana-like Sad Folk stuff), supported by a down-tuned bass line, slowly pounding and somewhat Jazz like percussion, and ethereal synths. This climbs up, step by step, growing slowly yet convincingly, with additional instrumentation joining the package. This melancholic tension eventually gets mercilessly rearranged into obscure, funereal spheres, when the whole morphs into a bleak, wretched approach of funereal atmospheres. Deep and clearly unpleased grunts, heavy drum patterns, doomed guitar leads and a burdensome rhythm section take over the initial melancholy. It’s still based around desolation and woe, yet now injecting the emotion with anger, vengeance and disrespect. Throughout this track – let’s call it I – a lot of things happen, with short yet sudden outbursts, the use of blackened screams, quite some hints of Black Metal (the DSBM trend, evidently), permanently interacting tempo-changes, dramatic melodic structures, some dual guitar leads, droning down-tuned strings, and at the end some floating, hypnotic soundwave.

That soundwave smoothly merges into the second piece, II. This one is remarkably bleaker as from the start, preaching the essence of lugubrious Funeral Doom in its purest definition. Droning riffs, those morbid, slowly sulphur-breathing grunts, and a monolithic rhythm section, are canalised into a gigantic experience of abyssal obscurity and never-ending grief. Remarkable are some riffs, like at about four minutes, that reveal the fundamental origin of the old-schooled Doom scene. I am not talking about any copycat attitude, for the relationship with this old-styled trend is a fine element. The guitar sound, by the way, has something sludgy, which results in a production different from the grey masses. II has a couple of distinctive moments, once again with certain drum parts being remarkably seeking for attention.

Once again, II emerges organically into III with a subtle soundscape of wind-like noise. III starts semi-acoustic, very integer and down-earthed, before turning, at 66,6 seconds (just saying something, haha), into another monumental mixture of funereal Doom-Death Metal and blackened Sludge. Once again, there are some striking chapters: jazzy percussion, sudden breaks and tempo-changes, a continuously interacting balance of contemporary moments and aspects from the earlier years, the use of (semi) acoustic intermezzi, and that vocal timbre that is as dingy as it is exuberant. And in extension of both other pieces, this one too unveils new details with each listen.

Imagine a hybrid of elements from, for example, very early Unearthly Trance, Mournful Congregation, Evoken, Woods Of Belial, Beneath Oblivion and Thergothon, yet then again with an own-faced vision, and you’ll might have an idea of what Vofa stand for.