Danish quartet VOLA are an impossible band to pigeonhole as their 2016 debut Inmazes gleefully hopped genres encompassing Heavy Metal, Prog Rock, Industrial and Electro elements amongst others. Their new album Applause of a Distant Crowd (both Mascot) continues this broad outlook, but this time the keys of Martin Werner play a more prominent role.
The keys being front and centre helps to create a swirling, more textured, soundscape – ‘We Are Thin Air’ does this well; the throbbing bass and guitar attack sits side by side with floaty keys and a huge chorus. This eye for a catchy melody is central to ‘Ghosts’, a song about our fear of death with its progressive sense of time married to a catchy, pop sensibilities. This softer approach reaches its zenith in ‘Ruby Pool’, a soft, tranquil piece about social media and its impact on our relationships, which is a major theme for the album, with an evocative Peter Gabriel feel to it.
Ambient, atmospheric moments are at the album’s middle and end, acting as intermissions between the aggression and shifting time signatures. ‘Vertigo’ is about the psychological impact of a break-up, with the emotional heft of Asger Mygind’s sweetly sung lyrics matched by the haunting simplicity of the music. The two and a half minute long ‘Green Screen Mother’ is a subtle number and sees the record off to a melancholic, almost mournful note. Either side of these are moments of progressive aggression in the vein of Meshuggah or Opeth, like the pounding drums and the heavy guitar chug of ‘Whaler’ or the electronically assisted ‘Smartfriend’ with its raucous, earth-shaking groove and a bizarre and very dark music video.
Applause of a Distant Crowd is a multi-layered album which manages to mash together the seemingly disparate sounds of Heavy Metal, Prog Rock, Electronica and Pop into one finely balanced, and very compelling, whole.