Grasping Time is the third full length from Swedish stoner doom rockers Vokonis and undoubtedly proves they have an unparalleled grasp of times gone by. The album feels like a throwback to the 1970s, from the mystical hallucinatory hazed green artwork to the distorted rock ‘n’ roll and blissed out musical jams contained within. This is Rock that is indubitably hirsute, bedecked in denim and with a (jazz) cigarette nonchalantly hanging from the corner of its mouth. Although not directly credited, there’s a chance that Billy Bifta was a large influence on the song writing and was present during the recording of Grasping Time. Which is no bad thing, he’s helped to craft huge grooves and a substantial amount of riffage.
The opener ‘Antler Queen’ begins as an up tempo rocky number, all barrelling guitars and drums with a seriously catchy chorus before slowing down and expanding into something completely different. The heaviness is replaced by dreamy melodies which musically and vocally bring to mind Pink Floyd. These moments of tranquillity ebb and flow throughout the duration of the album and nicely offset the heavier moments. When all’s said and done though, Vokonis are at their best when they crank things up and cut the riffs loose, worshipping at the feet of the Axe God. Grasping Time isn’t the heaviest of albums by any means, but does throw in nods to some of the big hitters from the stoner scene, such as the godfathers themselves when we’re treated to heavy Sabbath-esque fuzzy distorted guitars towards the end of the epic ‘Sunless Hymnal’.
The song throws everything and the progressive kitchen sink into its near ten minute running time. It features some patchy high pitched vocals, which did grate on me a little but luckily they don’t hang around too long and are eventually jettisoned for raw shouted vocals, which, with their rough around the edges quality, compliment the music. Other highlights include ‘Embers’ and the title track which sum up the Vokonis experience. The former is heavy, with guitars that chug away before some doomy punchy riffs that Down would be proud of set the song alight. The title track meanwhile has an ear for a momentous melody, those high pitched vocals feeling more at home on this track than on any other. It still rocks, but is also soothing and relaxing at the same time.
Vokonis are a band of contrasts; equal parts heavy stoner groove colliding with ethereal melodies, yet it works and they totally command this sound. You could throw Baroness and Mastodon in as other influences but in reality, for Vokonis, the last four decades haven’t really existed. This is heavy psychedelic rock with a hint of blues and a doomy metal swagger. Although clearly not a new sound, it’s refreshing to hear a band that hark back to an era that was all about Rock music at its most primal and simplistic, stripped of any bells and whistles, just guitar, bass and drums. Vokonis have a grasp on not only how to write songs that will cause the listener to lose themselves in their jams, involuntary head nodding the minimum prerequisite, but also peacefully drift off into another dimension. After a long tedious week at work this is very much Friday night music; it’s time to rock your socks off before chilling out and immersing yourself in Vokonis’ jams dude, pass the Camberwell carrot…
(7.5/10 James Jackson)