Völur – Disir (Prophecy Productions, 24 June 2016)
Völur – Ancestors (Prophecy Productions, 02 June 2017)
Hey folks! The Shadow Frost festival that we talked about recently starts tomorrow and runs through the next day. Whomst among you are headed to Maryland for this event? That’s a pretty enticing line-up, huh?
So having said that, today seemed like an appropriate time to delve into a pair of albums by Torontonian trio Völur that I’ve been meaning to discuss ever since they first caught my attention several years ago. Not an ideal time to write about them, of course, as that would have been actually in 2016 and in 2017 (respectively) when they came out — but nevertheless, an appropriate time. Here we go!
If you know one thing about Canadians, it’s probably that they love hockey. And curling. And that they are habitually extremely polite. And apologetic. But if you know one other thing about Canadians, you are surely aware that they have a fascination with Norse/Germanic folklore and mythology. At least, it sure seems that way — out of the dozens of bands from the Great White North we’ve featured here, at least a handful have been Viking-themed or somehow connected to old northern European imagery and ideology. And here’s another one.
As 2016’s Disir kicks off with a lengthy distorted droning and feedback, and then a thunderous rock drumbeat enters — and even as the electrified and effects-laden lead part takes over — the general impression is one of good old fashioned doom, with the drums lending a bit of a Pentagram feel. But halfway through the first song as the growled vocals drop out to be replaced by wordless choral “ooohs” and we find morose-toned violins all over the place, it becomes immediately apparent that this material will be anything BUT typical doom fare.
In fact, the group has the nontraditional composition of one violinist/vocalist, one bassist/vocalist, and one drummer. The bass is sometimes electric (in guitar format) but elsewhere takes the form of an acoustic upright. And the violin sometimes operates in a classic folk motif, but just as often will venture into either a somber “Requiem for the Rockets” style, or furiously grinding away on the fiddle, like the “band of demons joined in” part from “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”.
Similar themes can be found throughout the eight songs (total; four apiece) that make up both albums: aggressive metallic sections (sometimes with harsh, vicious vocals, or often without) that give way to more exploratory/experimental droning parts (occasionally incorporating chanting or lovely harmonized choruses), and then wistfully serene pastoral sections.
Often these shifts come suddenly and unexpectedly within any of the lengthy compositions. The 2017 record Ancestors especially showcases a wide range of moods, with all of its tracks exceeding the ten-minute mark, employing a very progressive modality — although more often than not the vibe tends more toward the dark and severe, given the particular themes of these titles (each is named for the “Breaker of” something: “Silence,” “Skulls,” “Oaths,” and “Famine”).
As a final note, both albums present very interesting and enjoyable listening experiences. But to really appreciate them fully, be sure to study the liner notes for references to the fascinating tales and figures who inspired it all. The resulting Wikipedia rabbit holes could last hours, or even days…
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