For whatever reason, bands from Russia don’t seem to be on anyone’s radar here in North America. Has Obama imposed an embargo on all music from the country because of diplomatic tensions between the two nations? Is Putin such a tyrant that he wants to keep music from his country all to himself? There are no answers to these questions unfortunately, but as luck would have it WOOAAARGH records slipped us a copy of Russian metal/hardcore band Vorvaň’s latest album Once Love Was Lost and we’re glad they did because we get to share a track from their new album along with a review.
Here’s what is likely your first introduction to Russia’s Vorvaň, a band that combines both aspects of hardcore and metal so well that it would be irresponsible to pigeonhole them into either camp. We’re very excited to be premiering the track “Sirens” below. This song is an absolute rager that features guest vocals from Meghan O’Neil (ex-Punch/Super Unison) whose unmistakable screams jump out and grab you by the throat. Vorvaň display their musical chops by keeping their foot on the gas as they thrash and grind their way through “Sirens” with a relentless attack. You’ll hear a nice balance of metallic hardcore riffing combined with flourishes of tech death that will most definitely have you more fired up than your morning cup of coffee.
Before delving into the musical content here, you may be wondering what the name of the band means. The word Vorvaň is from the Russian word for the aquatic mammal known to us as the sperm whale (vorvaň obrovsky). According to Wikipedia, the sperm whale is the largest toothed predator in the sea. This species of whale can grow up to sixty-seven feet in length and have been known to dive into the deepest depths of the sea. From the info I gathered on this beast I’ll say that its most bad ass quality is that it’s known for fighting off whalers; joke’s on those people for thinking they can capture or kill such a large animal. What does this all have to do with the band Vorvaň? This album is a beast much like the animal they’ve coined themselves after.
The press release for this album caught my eye right off the jump because it was mixed by the god king Kurt Ballou, whose resume of quality album credits reads like a who’s who of Hall of Fame alumni in the world of underground metal and hardcore. It’s important to note here that the album was not recorded at Ballou’s God City studios and again that he only mixed the album. The credit here goes to the team who recorded Once Love Was Lost because without the sounds and performances they were able to coax out of Vorvaň and their instruments, Ballou wouldn’t have something to work with. In addition to that Vorvaň also got some assists from Meghan O’Neil and members of Italian grinders Afgrund on a couple tracks. Now that we’ve got all the particulars out of the way, let’s dive into the album itself.
Once Love Was Lost is very diverse album that touches on many of metal and hardcore’s subgenres across its ten tracks. The opener “Of Menace and Favour” sounds like Machine Head meets Converge. The drumming in particular is the engine that drives this machine by kicking in spats of fast double bass and frenzied fills throughout. The song’s opening riff serves as the glue that holds the song together as it starts off with a few simple power chords that shift and transform over the course of the track. The first time you hear this track, you may initially be caught off guard by the Sick Of It All “whoas” that close it out. It all ties together as the song flows from start to finish. On “Third Case Scenario”, the pace slows down as Vorvaň start you off with some shades of Neurosis along with some not quite singing/not quite screaming vocal stylings. The track builds on the opening segment and proceeds to take a heavier direction with tribal drumming that then morphs into a blackened section of tremolos and blast beats. Things close out on a bendy rock-tinged riff that works wonderfully with a hardcore stomping beat that goes along with it. Considering all the diversity in this track, it’s still strong for the way in which all the parts flow and change seamlessly. The angular riffing that greets you as “When Serpent Strikes First” starts up will most assuredly please the Converge fans who enjoyed All We Love, We Leave Behind.
Vorvaň prove themselves capable when tackling a longer song as well. Tracks such as the epic “Celestine” and closer “The End (Hemicrania)” are both lengthy tracks, but you hardly notice as they are constantly shifting and introducing new elements throughout without being repetitive. There’s no waiting around for a special moment or a particular riff on these tracks because much like the shorter songs on the record, everything feeds off of the section that proceeded it. All the tracks on Once Love Was Lost have a fluidity in the songwriting that make for an engaging listen that boasts a horde of influences, precise musical acumen and an overall great sounding record. If you’re a fan of the other bands mentioned here as part of Vorvaň’s sound, you’ll find plenty to like. Even more awaits you as you “dive right to the bottom and feel the power of whale punk” like their Bandcamp page says.