Even for lovers of the Doom genre such as myself, it’s never a bad thing when a new variant on the strain comes along. Step forward Vouna, a Washington state-based project, whose synth-heavy take on the Funeral sound adds lush, frosted textures to a bleak atmosphere.
If there’s a downside to self-titled album Vouna (released on the Wolves in the Throne Room-run Artemisia Records), fully written and performed by mainstay Yianna Bekris, it’s that four of the five tracks were self-released as a ‘rough workings’ EP, just four months ago, though the addition of a rhythm section and an enhanced sound has, however, certainly transformed those early drafts. Opener ‘A Place to Rest’ sees a sad lament turned to Black by a shimmering riff, mournful keys and hammering blastbeats. A heady mix of beauty and savagery, the slowed, melancholic coda is assumed by the following ‘Cattle’, where plaintive and a gently picked acoustic guitar join those affecting synth airs. The prickly nature of the keyboard riff again blackens the feel but does not detract from the bitter desolation of the overall feel.
The early stages of ‘Last Dream’ resemble a tragic Gaelic folk song, the ethereal vocal breezing against a single string cello loop, before that icy background recommences its haunting refrain. ‘Drowning City’, meanwhile, sees a Middle Ages-style opening graced by choral vocals, acoustic and flute accompaniments before the coldest riff and more tremolo leadwork give the track a harsh yet heartbreaking edge. Church organ effects creep to the second explosion, perfectly led by the dragging hammers Bekris uses for drumsticks, and sends this glorious track to its dénouement.
Closer ‘You Took Me’ returns to the synth-drenched undercurrent of the earlier tracks and, while the maudlin pace is maintained, the riff carries a harder edge. Bekris’ vocal more strained, the feel more desperate, it’s a devastating way to end an album rich in doleful intent but enlivening with its tapestry of sonic invention.