When I tell you that Vouna are signed to Artemisia Records (a name which evokes both important, female, historic figures and America’s Pacific Northwest), the label founded by Wolves in the Throne Room, and that they play self described “Cascadian Funereal Doom”, you should already have a pretty strong mental image of what you’re about to hear. The thing is, in this case, you’d be absolutely right. Vouna play a kind of ethereal, atmospheric, yet often moving kind of funereal doom, channeling crashing chords, haunting melodies, and rarefied vocals to achieve the kind of arboreal majesty we have come to expect from anything to do with WITTR. Is that a bad thing? Is your ability to know exactly what’s coming next somehow a disadvantage? It all depends on your mood.
If you’re looking for soaring string melodies and synths echoing out over blastbeats and slow chords, this is a great album to start with. It doesn’t take long for the majesty to set in; following the vocal heavy opening track, “Cattle” is a further exploration of the instrumentation of Vouna. Harp, percussive acoustic guitars, overbearing blastbeats, and a sense of green, serene grace bleed out from the track in all directions. Perhaps the most uniquely identifiable sound is a kind of lo-fi tone to some of the sounds; this features even more heavily on opening track “A Place to Rest”, which starts with a lot of this feedback washing over you.
It returns on “Cattle” and, indeed, elsewhere on the album to various degrees of success; often, it works well to flesh things out and perhaps set your teeth on edge amidst the otherwise quite soothing elements of the album, adding a bit of contrast. But other times, like during the opening segments, it feels out of place. The rest of the instruments are too crisp to compliment this almost static noise and the meaning is lost. But when the cleaner instruments are allowed to shine through, which is the case for most of the album, they are beautifully composed and recorded. The synths, often focused on organ-like sounds, are especially utilized well, echoing those classic sounds of the Northwest. The same can be said about the harp-like tones used and the guitars; they get across the feeling of the “medieval as it should be” which can characterize much of the thought on “The Kingdom of Artemisia”.
However, this conjuring of the classic is also what hovels the album the most. Simply put, like we mentioned in the intro, you already know which cards this album is going to play; it’s very much composed and arranged along well established lines of funereal doom and American extreme metal in general. Which is not to say it’s not enjoyable but sometimes, especially in the middle of the album, it tends to drag a bit. You can already see five steps ahead and are filled with a desire for the band to get there, so you can see if maybe the next hill holds something more fresh and exciting. That being said, if you’re in the mood to let go and be lost in distortion and the ethereal sounds which doom metal like this does so well, maybe you don’t care about that. The next hill doesn’t bother you, only the beauty of the path you’re on right now and that beauty is aplenty on Vouna.
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Vouna sees release on November 9th via Artemisia Records. You can head on over to the label’s Bandcamp above to pre-order it.