So, Editor Dan has recently had me review a Swiss band and now he’s given me a Russian one. I feel like I’m on some weird musical contiki tour but without the hangovers and depression. Much like that Swiss band, CORTEZ, I hadn’t heard of Vorvan before. Much like my lack of knowledge of Swiss hardcore for the CORTEZ review, I have to say my knowledge of Russian hardcore is limited. My knowledge of Russian music is limited. Off the top of my head, I can only think of Moscow Death Brigade, Pussy Riot and Tatu (for shame Duncan).
Before I start, I’d like to throw in another little caveat. Both CORTEZ and Vorvan don’t always vocalise in English or if they do (particularly in the case of Vorvan), being hardcore/metal, it’s hard to hear them. I have searched for lyrics but at the time of writing, I haven’t been able to find any. The only language I can speak (with the exception of 1 – 10 in German and Japanese, just call me trilingual, oh and I can swear in Swahili) is English, badly.
As such, I’m reviewing this in much the same way as CORTEZ, based on sound more than message. Due to this, I obviously might praise or dislike songs, but this is not based off their lyrical content. What I’m saying is, if there’s anything nasty on here lyrically; don’t take my opinion as a sign of support of these lyrics. This is also not to cast aspersions on Vorvan, I’m sure everything is hunky dory.
Vorvan kicked off their life in Moscow in 2009 and have had a number of line-up changes since but have now settled down to their current four piece. They’ve supported some heavyweights, including Napalm Death, Extreme Noise Terror and a personal favourite of mine, Walls of Jericho.
So, this record, out on WOOAAARGH (best record company name ever) and Darkened Days is mixed by none other than the hardcore/metal producer of the moment, Kurt Ballou. It seems like I can’t turn around with Mr Ballou producing something, he’s like the goddam’ Rick Rubin of the heavy music world. That said he does a more than adequate job here mixing. No over production, no under production, just a straight up sound.
The first song on the album, Of Menace and Favour starts as Vorvan continue on this album, heavy, uncompromising and with a sound that I’m loathe to call metalcore. I mean they are, I guess, a metal band with hardcore influences/elements but I’d almost say they have a cross over sound more than a true metalcore sound. What’s the difference? I have no idea to a degree, I have had a sinus infection for about three weeks and I don’t have a firm grasp on reality anymore.
Anyway, the song starts with a very Modern Life Is War intro off Fever Hunting, slow, haunting. Then they Vorvan it up with a transition straight into some good old fast metal. Now as I said, this song to a degree outlines the album so I’ll go through the elements here. One thing you can hear on this song, maybe even more than others, is that Vorvan haven’t forgotten their roots. There is a distinct background here, a chord progression on the guitars that could be heard as distinctly Eastern European. Even in this song, a couple of chords in a quiet snippet before the onslaught begins again, of a Russian traditional folk sound.
The hardcore influences are big on this song as well. Lots of gang vocals, the wooahs are incredibly present and, perhaps, a little repetitive near the end of the song. There is also a touch of Converge/math rock sounding influence here with a few sections whipping off for some Dillinger Escape Plan or Baroness type craziness. So is it a good song? Yes. But there is better to come.
Sirens, the second song off the album, is a straight up cracker. Guest vocalist Meghan O’Neill Pennie, of Punch and Super Unison, destroys on this track. Maybe it’s because I really like female hardcore/metal vocalists (hence the Walls of Jericho comment earlier) but this is probably my favourite track on this album. It’s completely frenetic, harsh and smashes out some good old thrash in parts. Massive highlight.
So, there’s a lot to like on Once Love Was Lost. Last to Witness is a bit different because Vorvan take down the speed a notch during the verse and instead use a really cool hook to drive the song, almost Raised Fist like, although not for long. Third Case Scenario really brings out the metal side with almost hair metal type guitar wails. The Black Kaleidoscope, with guest vocals from Armin Schweiger of Afgrund and Distaste, even has a sample from a movie. You all know my disturbing love for movie samples in songs.
But……. But there are some issues here as well. Not massive ones, but some issues. Mavrychev’s vocals do walk the line of a stereotypical metalcore/hardcore sound. Vorvan can also push certain sounds too far at times, the wooahs on Of Menace and Favour a good example. There also isn’t a “Vorvan” sound here to a degree but a hell of a lot of influences. Hardcore, hair metal, speed/thrash metal. Post-hardcore hardcore. That isn’t a horrible thing either; I mean Quentin Tarantino has made some pretty mad films based solely out of influences.
All in all, I like Vorvan. They’re on the monthly playlist and are working their way to getting a sale of an album out of me. Do I think this album is brilliant? Maybe not but it’s certainly a cut above a lot of the heavy music dross going around. If you like heavy music I think you’ll get a kick out of this one, I did.