Vola – Applause Of A Distant Crowd – Album Review

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Artist: Vola

Album Title: Applause Of A Distant Crowd

Label: Mascot Label Group

Date of Release: 12 October 2018

This review is being brought to you via the phrases, ‘whoops’, ‘I dropped the ball’ and ‘nobody’s perfect’ via the school of ‘better late than never’. Yes, I’ve done it again and nearly let another record slip by that I should have been all over weeks before its release. But hey ho, its another one I’ll chalk up to experience and humbly request the band and my loyal readers to forgive me.

Vola are a quartet hailing from Copenhagen, Denmark and they caused quite a stir with their debut full-length, ‘Inmazes’ in 2015. For some reason, I never really paid that much attention to the release and I can’t remember why or come up with any excuses. Describing their music on their own website as “a mix of 70’s style progressive rock, electronica, industrial and metal, topped off with clear, beautiful vocal lines”, I can’t quite fathom why Vola have not made a bigger impact upon me as this kind of thing appeals to my ever-increasingly open mind. I can only put it down to being swamped by music as a one-man endeavour.

So not only am I late to the party with this sophomore release, I’m late to Vola full stop. But, when more trusted voices in prog circles begged me to take another listen to this band, I ignored the fact that I was going to miss the release date deadline and decided to take a leaf out of the cover artwork and jump right in.

But unlike the cover image of ‘Applause Of A Distant Crowd’ illustrates, I have not serenely and effortlessly found myself floating in a pool of crystal blue waters. Nope. Instead, I have fallen somewhat ungracefully head over heels, the myriad charms of this disc causing me to utter breathlessly on several occasions, ‘I love this music’. I am smitten and here’s why.

Firstly, the four musicians, Asger Mygind (vocals/guitar), Martin Werner (keys), Nicolai Mogensen (bass) and newcomer Adam Janzi (drums) demonstrate how to work perfectly in unison, all pulling in the same direction to bring their musical vision to life. No one member steals the spotlight unless the song demands it and there feels like there is an almost telepathic understanding between the quartet.

It helps of course that the song writing on this record is of the highest order, an issue that becomes very clear when you realise that the output here could have been a disjointed and ugly mess, where seemingly disparate ideas are forced together unwillingly in the pursuit of originality. Instead, ‘Applause Of A Distant Crowd’ flows beautifully, serenely and effortlessly both within individual songs and across the ten tracks collectively. When you consider the fact that, like the description above alludes to, Vola attempt to fuse complicated or atypical rhythms with big grooves, even bigger melodies, electronica, pop and atmospheric post-rock ambience, this feat is not to be sniffed at. In fact, it should be lauded.

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What this all means is that when I listen to ‘Applause Of A Distant Crowd’, I am transported to another place; a place that is calm, relaxed and exceedingly warm, rich and beautiful. At times, Vola are incredibly heavy thanks to the injection of some crushing djent-like riffs, bruising beats and a gurgling and rumbling bass. Just take ‘Whaler’ as the perfect example, which has all the subtlety of a tank to begin with, steadily and inexorably crushing all in its path. And yet, as the track develops, quiet moments of quiet introspection are injected, and there’s even room for a glorious melodic chorus that briefly changes the tone from ominous to seductive and irresistible in the blink of an eye.

The thing is, everywhere you turn on this record, you’re greeted with something that charms, intrigues, challenges or simply makes you feel instantly better about life. That’s a rare trait and one that I don’t attribute lightly.

Opener ‘We Are Thin Air’ sets the tone excellently, thanks to its blend of heavy, off-kilter and syncopated rhythms, soothing light-as-a-feather melodies and impossibly rich and immersive synths. It shouldn’t work, but in the hands of four talented musicians, it just does.

And 700 words in and I haven’t even mentioned the vocals of guitarist Asger Mygind yet. And the reason is that he just suits the music so perfectly that he is almost overlooked. But to do so would be a travesty because he has a wonderful delivery, full of deftness and intelligence. And yet, he is able to inject something more powerful when the need arises whilst maintaining his honest and passionate approach.

The acoustic guitars and bold synth lead melody open up the delightful ‘Ghosts’, a deceptively complex composition that revels in its hidden technicality

‘Smartfriend’ is a chugging monster that introduces something approaching rap-like fast-spoken lyrics in the verses whilst first bludgeoning us with clever and exceedingly powerful djent riffs, and then releases into a majestic and soaring chorus.

Words fail me when it comes to ‘Alien Shivers’. It begins in bold fashion thanks to an electronic beat and then explodes into a great syncopated rhythm, complete with more heavy down-tuned riffs. They give way to be replaced by more electronics and Mygind’s soft tones before the most exquisite and life-enriching of chorus envelopes us in a warm and satisfying glow, raising the hairs on the back of my neck at the same time. Candidate for song of the year?

In contrast, ‘Vertigo’ is dominated by Mygard’s captivating voice as he sings his lament over the kind of synth tones that remind me of the likes of Sigur Ros and their ambient friends. At the halfway point, a lone guitar joins alongside the poignant tinkling of a piano and after a pause, the vocals return, although this time they are multi-layered and enthralling.

The walls of sound within ‘Still’ are arresting, as is its overall depth, whilst the title track is another special song that builds to a thrilling and hugely melodic conclusion, as uplifting as anything on this record.

I’ll say it again – I cannot believe that it has taken me so long to fall for the charms of Vola, for they are a special band that have managed to produce on ‘Applause Of A Distant Crowd’, some of the most challenging and original yet beautifully elegant and sophisticated music that I have heard all year. All I want to do when the album finishes is listen to it all over again.

The Score of Much Metal: 9.75

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:

2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Lost In Thought – Renascence
Into Eternity – The Sirens
Fifth Angel – The Third Secret
Ashes of my Memory – Raptures /// Disillusions EP
Anathema – Internal Landscapes
Samskaras – Lithification
Seventh Dimension – The Corrupted Lullaby
Hate Eternal – Upon Desolate Sands
Witherfall – A Prelude To Sorrow
Northward – Northward
Seventh Wonder – Tiara
Warrel Dane – Shadow Work
Haken – Vector
Beyond Creation – Algorythm
Ultha – The Inextricable Wandering
Amaranthe – Helix
Ghost Ship Octavius – Delirium
Decembre Noir – Autumn Kings
The Odious Construct – Shrine of the Obscene
Fauna Timbre – Altering Echoes
The Moor – Jupiter’s Immigrants
Revocation – The Outer Ones
Riverside – Wasteland
Ethernity – The Human Race Extinction
Dynazty – Firesign
Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy
Brainstorm – Midnight Ghost
Krisiun – Scourge of the Enthroned
Kingcrow – The Persistence
Cast The Stone – Empyrean Atrophy
Omnium Gatherum – The Burning Cold
Helion Prime – Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster
Madder Mortem – Marrow
A Dying Planet – Facing The Incurable
Árstíðir – Nivalis
Mob Rules – Beast Reborn
The Spirit – Sounds From The Vortex
Aethereus – Absentia
Unanimated – Annihilation
Manticora – To Kill To Live To Kill
Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name
Halcyon Way – Bloody But Unbowed
Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 1
Redemption – Long Night’s Journey Into Day
Distorted Harmony – A Way Out
Tomorrow’s Eve – Mirror of Creation III – Project Ikaros
Atrocity – Okkult II
Lux Terminus – The Courage To Be
Kataklysm – Meditations
Marduk – Viktoria
Midas Fall – Evaporate
The Sea Within – The Sea Within
Haken – L-1VE
Follow The Cipher – Follow The Cipher
Spock’s Beard – Noise Floor
Ihsahn – Amr
The Fierce And The Dead – The Euphoric
Millennial Reign – The Great Divide
Subsignal – La Muerta
At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
Hekz – Invicta
Widow’s Peak – Graceless EP
Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik – Hugsjá
Frequency Drift – Letters to Maro
Æpoch – Awakening Inception
Crematory – Oblivion
Wallachia – Monumental Heresy
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
MØL – Jord
Aesthesys – Achromata
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse

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