The Fleece Bristol was filled up pretty much to the brim tonight, with fans squeezing their way through the crowd to find the best possible spot. Vola has garnered much respect in the progressive metal world, and after their striking performance this evening it’s easy to see why. Vola is a well-liked progressive metal band from Copenhagen, Denmark, connected to the Swedish territories already famously renowned for its vibrant metal scene. Spearheaded by frontman, guitarist, and vocalist Asger Mygind and a group of friends in their hometown Copenhagen, the band started out on its journey in 2006 and has gone from strength to strength since. They have released four studio albums so far, including Monsters, Inmazes, Applause of a Distant Crowd, and of course Witness, their most recent and critically acclaimed work.
Vola has also been busy this year. As well as being midway through their UK and European tour right now, they also recorded and filmed their fifth album, ‘Live from the Pool’ earlier in April, which was also streamed live. The album is a showcase of songs pulled from all four previous albums, and arguably features some of the band’s best work to date, including six tracks from the aforementioned critically acclaimed album, Witness. The sonically rich ‘Live from the Pool’ was performed in an abandoned indoor swimming pool in their hometown of Copenhagen. The production included striking audio-visuals, beautiful light installations, and likely some awesome reverberation from the walls of the pool. It is a great accumulation of their work so far and their biggest project to date.
The majority of tonight’s set comprised songs taken from their aforementioned ‘Live from the Pool’ album. This tapestry of sound flows very well through the Fleece’s recently improved sound system too, filling the room with a heavenly sonic soundscape, weaved in with harmonious high-frequency electronica and sound effects.
Vola begins their performance with the well-known philosophical number ‘Light Years’, complete with atmospheric strobe lights and a beautiful black and white sunflower on the backdrop. A sonically stunning, heartfelt, and lyrically poignant song taken from Witness, Light years immediately transports its audience from the earthly and familiar to a distant, heavenly dystopian paradise interwoven with deep existential inquiry and a sweet blend of high-frequency synth-wave electronica and distortion. ‘Shivers’, taken from ‘Applause of a Distant Crowd’ also contains conceptually intriguing subject matter, appearing to depict an existential dialogue with a far-away entity, though we will leave the interpretation of it up to you. ‘Head Mounted Sideways’ almost enters the realm of industrial metal in the introduction, with tinny undertones and a classic metal breakdown. The room becomes almost completely silent upon entering Ruby pool, a melancholic yet hopeful acoustic number describing the lost generation of a technologically oriented youth, tangling the audience in an emotive tapestry complete with an emotional and ethereal electronic guitar solo.
In recent years, Vola has introduced more electronic elements into its music while maintaining the use of Djent, a musical style that implements off-beat and complex rhythm patterns. It is a technique employed in many metal bands, originally taking its beginnings from the free Jazz genre. However, while Vola shows heart, emotion, and a keen drive towards experimentation, they also know how to rock. Moving into heavier territory with progressive metal classics such as ‘These Black Claws’ and ‘Whaler’, Vola showcases the heavier side of their repertoire and gives us a good beating down with some good old-fashioned heavy metal in full form, even squeezing in an unexpected rap progression mid-song. The room keenly responds to this heavier change and The Fleece is suddenly transformed into a room full of headbangers, quite different from the initial dystopian atmosphere created at the beginning of the set. It’s like musical bipolar. One minute we are all uniting and merging in the bliss of consciousness on the edge of a far-off universe in a wave of electronic ambience, next we are headbanging away to gnarly metal goodness with exchanged looks and smiles that say ”The love of metal is really the reason we are all here”. However, the so-called ‘contrast’ between Vola’s ambience and metal is not as jarring as you might expect it to be. Though firmly a progressive metal band, where some experimentation is expected, Vola is truly one of those bands pushing musical boundaries by exploring vastly different styles and progressions while blending them together seamlessly. This is admirable. The various elements blend harmoniously from section to section, song to song, marrying the highest frequencies of various genres of electronic music with the lowest, gnarliest frequencies of the grittiest types of metal with little to no clashing. This genre pairing might seem impossible to some, but somehow Vola is making it work and we think it works very well.
Vola’s ever-evolving sound has been growing, morphing and shape-shifting over the years and it doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down. We are keen to see where the experimental journey takes them next. If you’d like to give your inner spiritual metalhead a chance, we highly recommend giving ‘Witness’ and ‘Live from the Pool’ a listen first.
Asger Mygind – lead vocals, guitars (2006–present)
Martin Werner – keyboards (2006–present)
Nicolai Mogensen – bass guitar (2009–present)
Adam Janzi – drums (2017–present)
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Opening for Vola tonight was Voyager, an Australian Prog metal band with an impressive backlog. They opened for Stevie Vai in Perth in 2004, performed at the ProgPower Europe festival in the Neverlands in 2006 (and were invited back again in 2008), performed with Nightwish in Perth, and many more. Their uniVers album has also received critical acclaim.
Voyager is one of those bands that are a challenge to pin down to one or two genres. Drawing from a wide range of influences, many styles can be found within their sonic landscape. Coined ‘Colourful’ by many, there are hints of 80s synth wave, new romantic, dance, trance, electro, ambient, EDM, power metal, pop, gothic and probably many more we haven’t even noticed. Live, the band is a theatrical and high energy, which the audience responds well to. The frontman has a great stage charisma and sense of humour, as well as a great vocal range and clear passion for progressive experimentation. It also turns out he’s a master on the keytar and wows us with some impressive solos.
Seeming to not want to limit themselves to one genre, Voyager bravely defies musical boundaries and genres are juxtaposed in true progressive rock fashion. Perhaps the most consistent and definitive musical aspect in Voyager though is 80’s synthwave pop blended with heavy, slow classic metal breakdowns which shine especially in tracks like Colours, Dreamer, Hyperventilating, Ascension and the Meaning of I. Even the very high-frequency dystopian nostalgia of Brightstar includes a technically well-executed heavy metal breakdown. Some elements of power metal shine through in Submarine, and here it’s easy to draw similarities with the technical and creative expansiveness of bands like Dream Theatre and Devin Townsend.
Though blending a range of styles, there is a strong technicality to the music and all band members are talented and skilled in their own right. Clearly a band free from the shackles of definition though, Voyager are the sort of band that might give a scientist a heart attack. The sound freely ebbs and flows through many different musical realms, often changing and shape-shifting. But the unpredictability and the challenge in pinning down the music to any specific genre is part of what makes Voyager who they are. Besides, it has to be said there is a certain rebellious freedom about not being confined to a box.
Danny Estrin – Vocals
Simone Dow – Guitars
Alex Canion – Bass
Scott Kay – Guitars
Ash Doodkorte – Drums
FOUR STROKE BARON
A three-piece band that is three times harder to categorise musically, Four Stroke Baron opened up for Voyager and Vola this evening by boggling our minds with a soup of mish-mashed musical styles and unusual technical sound effects, including a wah-wah pedal and a vocoder which created an unusual multilayered mirage of vocals.
This band plays way outside the box of what most would probably be used to and even comfortable with. The instrumentation itself seems to combine the youthful musical optimism of skater music and grunge together, dips down into the land of heavy metal, and surfs a line somewhere between ambient distortion and ’80s, but all at the same time.
Bizarrely, the darker nuclei of each respective genre seem to ‘meet’ in the middle, but also magnify one another in a very unusual way, creating a bizarrely unique wall of sound which we would argue defines Four Stroke Baron’s signature style.
The resulting ‘wall of sound’ is somewhat dark and almost morbid in nature. Four Stroke Baron could be argued to be a subgenre of 80’s gothic, were it not for the semi-optimistic ambient overtones. The lead singer rocks a full navy Adidas tracksuit and specs, further adding to the confusion of where to place them musically. Nonetheless, it is always interesting to hear what can be created by blending different styles of music and experimenting with sound FX. The music translates slightly differently live than on the albums, which sound smoother and more cohesive. Live, the effects are easier to isolate, making the overall sound seem slightly more spectral which created more of a technical experimentation atmosphere on the stage.
Kirk Witt – Guitars and Vocals
Matt Vallarino – Drums
Keegan Ferrari – Bass
Photography: Emma Painter // Pacific Curd Photography
Review: Jasmine Lamport