One of the main phenomena that disgruntled cultural history majors will write their essays about in the future is the rise to fame of synthwave. Inside those articles you’ll probably find a paragraph, or even a full chapter, on the importance of the appeal of synthwave to metalheads. It’s not that hard to explain, to be honest: metal and its aesthetic is an intrinsic part of the 80’s and, as a genre which calls back to that period, synthwave borrowed a lot of that aesthetic into its own. That goes beyond “just” clothes, album covers, or overall vibes and into the music itself; plenty of synthwave features distorted guitars, heavy drums, and an overall “metallic” sensation. Which, naturally, doesn’t mean that a lot of synthwave does that well. Often times, it’s just a nod towards metal, not really thought through or fleshed out.
But when it’s done well, it fucking rules. Case in point, Volkor X and their This is our Planet now, released last month. It’s a thoroughly entertaining release which weaves a sort of space opera concept, blending synthwave, epic rock, and metal into one heady, satisfying whole. And the metal/rock ideas aren’t there just for show, they’re an integral part of the composition and what drives each track. Take the second track for example, “Beam”. The main beat is held up by classic synthwave drums and tones, creating a slow, electronic roil to the track. But throughout the entire track, multiple guitar lines screech in accompaniment to that beat, creating that epic feeling which 80’s rock and metal so excels it.
The guitar lines feel as if they belong there, rather than a latter addition. Of course, the album also has more synth-centric tracks, like “Stratos”, the track which immediately follows “Beam”. Here, the synths have the run of the mill, creating the lush, futuristic vibe that we go to synthwave for. But even here, electric guitars grace the chorus and, most akin to The Algorithm perhaps, add a lot of volume and presence to the already excellent, dirty synths.
Put all of this together, throw in a guest spot from one Sylvain Coudret (Soilwork) on the amazingly infectious last and self-titled track, and you have yourself an album. Not only you that, you have yourself an excellent album, an album which threads the crossover lines between metal and synthwave with more agility than most releases in the field. Volkor X, by giving metal and synthwave equal amounts of dedication and attention, has created an album which proves that the two genres were meant for each other that they, indeed, amplify and improve each other. So, grab your darkest pair of shades, throw on a leather clothing item or two, and set engines for hyperdrive: Volkor X does not come in peace but he does come with guitars.