Of all the musical periods that have risen back into prominence, the ’80s have arguably enjoyed the most success back in the spotlight. Sure, we’re also seeing an influx of influence from ’60s/’70s singer-songwriters in modern folk, pop and rock, as well as some echoes of grunge resurfacing from the shadows of the ’90s. But the synth-heavy, reverb-obsessed tendencies of the ’80s has permeated genres far and wide, including our own “heavy music” sphere. Just look at groups like Miracle signing with Relapse, or Kayo Dot fully devoting to a retro vibe.
The latest noteworthy addition to this trend is Vaura, who’ve expanded their post-black metal roots to synthesize auras of atmospheric rock subgenres. On Sables, the band executes this formula with a surprising degree of ease, considering their most recent material on The Missing (2013) had more in common with blackgaze and melodic metal than musical motifs from the ’80s. Whatever development the band focused on over the past six years, they’ve come out the other end with an exceptional, measured blend of influences that revitalizes nostalgic ideas with an invigorating, modern vision.
To put it more specifically, Sables sounds like Coffins On Io-era Kayo Dot with prominent splashes of Bauhaus, The Cure, Christian Death, Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears. Fittingly, Kayo Dot mastermind Toby Driver helms bass duties on the album, joining other prominent names like Josh Strawn of Azar Swan (vocals, guitar, synths), Kevin Hufnagel of Gorguts and Dysrhythmia (guitar) and Charlie Schmid of Tombs (drums, electronics). Vaura also has a more keen focus on equalizing the melody and melancholy in their music, still preserving a moody atmosphere while also approaching songcraft with memorability as a stated goal.
Case in point, opener “Espionage” truly feels like a college radio hit, with a fresh, modern energy roughly 30 years removed from the relevance of that reference. The track opens with a progression of tight drumming, synth pads, an electro bass line and reverb-soaked guitars, with an overall vibe resembling a Violator b-side. Strawn’s vocals balance a soaring croon with a subtle sneer, nodding towards the band’s clear roots in goth rock.
Yet, immediately following, Vaura prove they can amplify their experimental tendencies on “Zwischen.” Arguably the album’s strongest track, the band weaves ethereal synth and bass explorations with almost tribal drumming, adding to the mystery with gratuitous echo effects on Strawn’s vocals. The composition is a complex, haunting affair and a singular experience on Sables, adding to the album’s impact and the overall narrative of what Vaura are capable of.
From there, the band flex through various methods and moods, such as the brighter post-punk and solid hook on “The Lightless Ones” or the more metallic “The Ruins (Hymne)” and it’s subtle blackgaze bite. “No Guardians” is about as close as the album ventures into arena rock, with a soaring guitar solo and infectious piano refrain propped up by effect-laden acoustic guitar strumming. As the album nears its conclusion, the vibe becomes considerably darker, with impenetrable ambiance and electronics defining much of the final trio of songs. In particular, each member of the band provides their own musical accents within warm, all-encompassing synth tones on “Basilisk (The Infinite Corpse).”
I haven’t spent much time harping on Vaura’s “supergroup” status, mainly because that’s the least interesting aspect of what the band have to offer. Sables is an exceptional synthesis of styles, infusing the mood and melody of goth rock, post-punk and new wave with progressive, modern ideas. Anyone drawn to the allure of ’80s nostalgia will find a collection of songs replete with bold explorations of how tangential rock subgenres operate, both independently and in unison.
Sables is available April 26 via Profound Lore Records.