Thankfully the old ways will always persist but it seems like ‘post-black metal’ is becoming more and more prolific these days. How do you differentiate between the two? Well for me it’s pretty easy as it is much less about orthodoxy, Satan, frost, fire and ice and more about a greater expansive nature of the musical form with a meandering flow to the instrumentation and airy feel to everything. It certainly differs from the cold and claustrophobic nature of the beast and could be seen as more acceptable. Perhaps it could even be looked upon as music for those that don’t want to go the whole way and venture deep into the pits of hell themselves. Love it or loathe it though, it is definitely here to stay and if you really want anyone to blame you can probably start at the likes of Alcest and Agalloch (R.I.P), with artists such as Deafheaven and An Autumn For Crippled Children opening the floodgates to where we are at today.
Enter Vukari, an atypical outfit befitting the style. Coming from Chicago in the Midwest USA, this is the quartet’s second full length album following on from 2013 release ‘Matriarch’ and their first for Bindrune. I love the way that looking at their Facebook page brings a main picture of a vista of great fir trees swathed in mist, you can simply breathe in and immerse yourself in the pine scented glory that the music is likely to convey. This it does with the two part ‘Divination’. The first serves as a fluttering instrumental opener which conveys that aforementioned expansive nature before the second hones in with a massive wallop and lets everything drop in with might and thunder. Vocals rasp and there is fury from everything as the drums batter away. Here there is little to differentiate between the old and new ways of the style and one thing that Vukari keep to, even as the mood lightens and drifts off later, is the fact that they never deviate from snarling vocals and drop clean ones into the mix. Intricate musicianship is always important and Vukari show great skill here as the guitars on tracks such as Cursus Honorum weave away with plenty of atmosphere behind them. After a dense assault things move into a section of thick bass chords and a passage of what can only be described as introspective gazing which is the main differential point between old and new and takes me right back to the hypnotic caress of a band like The Cure. It’s time to lose yourself in the grandiosity and shimmering caress of it all waiting to see if the thunder will return; not on this track though. ‘Invictus Maneo’ sees the drummer rolling his way through things and building up the backbone of the track which becomes gradually more urgent with some staccato riffing and guttural roars in the background. It envelopes in mist and strange gloomy tones come at the end which seem to eerily correspond with the classic artwork of the album.
‘Delirium’ starts off with first part being experimental opener before the second ebbs in with a piece of acoustic post rock leaving you wondering if someone has switched albums on you. There’s plenty of trembling tremolo and an uplifting air about it as it picks up but some will obviously find it a big shift of contrast. The last two tracks take up almost twenty minutes and you kind of know what to expect just by track titles alone with ‘Sovereignty Through Extreme Tyranny’ offering more of a battering ram in delivery at first before settling down into a mesmerising flow and hefty swaggering conclusion whereas ‘Bathe In Divine Light’ sprawls with meandering passages of light and shade with plenty of depth and in no hurry to get to the end. There’s ultimately plenty going on here and it’s an immersive journey that takes a fair few listens to get into. Vukari have a lot of ideas and present plenty of maturity on ‘Divination’ and it’s an engaging album one that no doubt will be all the more potent in the live arena where the band have found themselves playing with everyone from Taake to Vemod and Waldgefluster. I’m impressed although not blown away hence the mark but that’s not to say the band will not develop on the ideas here and become a real force to be reckoned with in the future.
(7/10 Pete Woods)