Apparently mugwort, wormwood and sagebrush all belong to the Asteraceae genus of plants scientifically known as Artemisia. It’s also the name of new label founded by Wolves In The Throne Room so all ecologically sound and biodegradable I am sure. Vouna have been plucked from the Cascadian region and cultivated as the first signing on the label apart from WITTR themselves and no doubt there is going to be a certain amount of interest their way due to that affiliation. No need to go expecting a carbon copy here, for a start Vouna are being tagged as a funeral doom band and that is quite fair as there are many facets of that sub-genre to their sound. However despite this album containing just 5 numbers and a short running time of 30 minutes there are plenty of other elements to be found here. We don’t get a huge amount of information here, partly explaining why I have been harping on about plants but we are told that Vouna sees Yianna Bekris (previously of Vradiazei, Eigenlicht, and Sadhaka) responsible for all musical composition and instruments. That seems somewhat at odds with a promo shot comprising of 5 people but there you go. Eigenlicht went down pretty well with us earlier in the year and the “arboreal shoegaze” of WITTR was certainly mentioned, so what exactly do Vouna sound like?
Well I wouldn’t put My Dying Bride in the equation like the PR blurb does as ‘A Place To Rest’ somnambulantly chants in with Yianna fragrantly casting dour vocal spells. Instruments gradually come in and the guitar textures are Burzumic and mesmerising. Then there’s an explosion and as far as the drums are concerned nobody told whoever has programmed or is hitting them that this is meant to be slow stuff and the song gallops off in a hectic fashion. Curious, delicacy and speed seem to go well together though and this, the shortest track on the album is certainly going to create an impact as a preview piece. From there forget the anger and heft of pace ‘Cattle’ could be a slow dismal march to the abattoir’s final cull with animals blindly approaching fate whilst guitars harmoniously weep along the way. Acoustic parts are gorgeous amidst the sorrow and there is plenty of emotion here; saddening as it is. Keyboards flow in adding to the orchestration but it is only towards conclusion that you realise that vocals are neither present or indeed necessary. The passion within the instrumentation speaks the words and have succeeded along with the song title at putting images, whether they are right or wrong, clearly in my imagination. ‘Last Dream’ sees the harmonic vocals flowing back in and they are subtle and gorgeous. You could probably make comparisons to various artists if you so wanted and as the music enriches the senses there is plenty to dream along to within its caress. This has been very quick to be enamoured by due to both its depth and touch and it is a funereal fugue that lovers of dark music will quickly find themselves drawn moth to flame like by its gorgeous touch.
‘Drowning City’ with lonesome acoustic guitar and delicate vocals takes on a very organic folk like feel with what sounds like a subtle trilling flute wafting casually within it. Suddenly guitars fuzz up adding ballast and drama and as the melody washes over you will find yourself compelled to hum along and find yourself completely submerged. Again the imagination takes over with imagery, what with the title I find it akin to a dipping into the works of JG Ballard, which would make perfect sense to anyone who had similarly dipped into his watery worlds. For me this is the albums best track the organ work over the top making it all the more evocative. Longest track ‘You Took Me’ is at first an exercise is slow-burning misery the funereal aspects at the fore with solemn slow drum beats reverberating but a joyous rapture is etched when the vocals and melody fully flow in and the heartfelt pulse contrasts beautifully with the overriding sorrow really hitting the listener hard and bringing everything to perfect fruition. This may well be short but it is most definitely very sweet and this debut album has the scope to stir emotion in a wide range of listeners. You could put a tag line on it saying that it is perfect for lovers of Darkher right through to Jex Thoth as they are a couple of artists that I thought of whilst listening but there is plenty more to discover here. I see Vouna have played as a live outfit and if they hit a stage near me I am there as I would really love to witness these songs in such an environment.
(8/10 Pete Woods)