Written by: The Administrator
And now for something completely different! Today's album (and band) in question covers a unique blend of genres that don't get a whole lot of coverage 'round these parts--or any parts, for that matter, that we slumbering scribes tend to frequent. With that disclaimer in mind: let's dive in.
On their latest effort, Shocking Stories! (And Those Who Dare to Tell Them,) The Northway play a difficult-to-place conglomerate of pop punk, prog, math rock, and perhaps some alt metal, with a few other assorted elements weaving their respective ways into the chaotic fold. There's an alternative rock/metal angst on display, as well as a ska-esque sense of hype. Most notable, however, is the prominent role of the utterly unexpected. Take, for example, early album highlight "Trampolinehead," which blends a straightforward punk riff with a delightful Gentle Giant-by-way-of-Primus level of prog weirdness. There's a jazz lounge solo, a de la Rocha rap-rock moment, and a whole lotta assorted oddities besides. And if you think this is wacky, the excellent "City Trial" takes similarly disparate elements and cranks 'em up to 11. This thing is like the unholy alt-metal lovechild of Haken 's proggy tendencies and, I dunno, the early-aughts swagger of Priestess. And even that only covers a fraction of this track's identity. The entire album exists in a similarly fluid state, and, as a result, it's incredibly fun to experience.
If only I was someone else
I could have tried to help myself
It could have been so safe and good
But enough’s enough, enough’s enough
Written by: Heavy Grinder
It takes but the first stanza to become captivated by her warm and rich vocal timbre; gripped by the message, pointed and reaching deep into the soul; blanketed by the hearty and spatial sound that, despite just being piano and vocals at this point, completely envelops you leaving no path for escape.
It’s not as if you would want to or even try to take that first step in the opposite direction. A.A. Williams, in her opening lines of Forever Blue, softly paralyzes you into docility, forcing an internal reckoning within yourself that you didn’t know you needed, but yet are unable to refuse. Your time is hers and you will not shy from the moment because, as you will quickly realize, her voice navigates to the place where you thought you had refuge, only to find her awakening that spirit you sought to hide, bury, and quiet.
VOID VATOR - Stranded
This review (in its unadulterated form) was originally published in April, but, as today saw the re-release of an expanded version under Ripple Music, we thought it would be appropriate to break out this ol' writeup. The following is an edited and updated version. - Ed.
As obnoxious as it is to have people stoically refuse to admit that rock is, in fact, not dead, it's more obnoxious still to have a critic point out how patently absurd that statement is. So I'll refrain from falling down that particular rabbit hole. Needless to say, LA’s Void Vator plays some damn fine rock ‘n’ roll with the best of ‘em, and, from all accounts, they've got nowhere to go but up. This past April saw the release of Stranded as a 6-track EP, but here, after catching the eye of Ripple Music, it has been re-released as an album, with 2 brand new tracks in tow. If there was e’er a time to dust out the cobwebs and get back into chorus slinging high energy rock, yer looking at it.
Biographical material indicates a similarity to bands as diverse as Nirvana, Pantera, Megadeth and Foo Fighters. An eclectic mix, yes, yet oddly accurate. Take quite literally any track here--let’s say "Nothing to Lose" or the dynamic "Put Away Wet," for argument’s sake--and you’ll find the best elements of the aforementioned lurking mere inches below the surface. Bottom line: if you want your rock to have it, Void Vator wears it proudly. Short tracks. Grin-inducing solos. Blatantly air guitar-able riffs, which create and subsequently release kinetic energy like one taking a boltcutter to a tightly wound coil. Straightforward head-bopping groove. Aggressively present drums. Some of the more earwormy vocal melodies I’ve heard in a very long while--and this, I mean genuinely.
“Don’t bore us, get to the chorus,” riffs Grohl in some long-forgotten internet video. Rock may live and/or die by the guitar, but within the genre confines, a band’s staying power is often dependent on the vocalist’s ability to write the kind of chorus that get trapped in your head for days. Here, Void Vator succeeds remarkably. Take standout track "Inside Out," which features a hook that wouldn't go amiss in a newfound single from Audioslave or (the oft-neglected) Manman God. Lucas Kanopa’s classically gruff voice has the golden ability to inflict nostalgia-ridden glee, and if your track delivers a reaction of that pedigree, you’re doing something right. From an industry standpoint, “radio ready” has, unfortunately, become a bit of an unfortunate insult. Stranded deserves a wide audience, plain ‘n’ simple, and they’ve got the potential in spades. This album's high octane strains have graced the Sleeping Village's halls a multitude of times this year, and will likely receive some attention as we compile our end of year lists. It's dangerously repeatable, to the detriment of a certain stack of promos.
This re-release includes two new tracks: "Everything Sucks" and "Monster." The former is a bit of a wildcard, featuring a doomy intro that launches into a particularly nihilistic and punky brand of garage rock. It's a lot less subtle than the rest of the tracks herein, and feels a little under-baked on it's own. That said, the asymmetrical intensity between the respective halves provides substantial interest. "Monster," on the other hand, feels like a very complete track, undoubtedly ready and able to fill the all-important closer position. This lil' number has a delightfully unrestrained quality, and feels like an accurate summation of the general vibe Void Vator continue to nail.
Critically, the catchiness of each track does depend largely on the vocals. Personal preference, no doubt, but a thicker guitar tone might make these catchy-as-hell riffs a little heftier in stature. There's a thin line between remaining accessible and beating up your audience, but as it stands now, the guitar sounds a tad thin. But that aside: perhaps most importantly, Void Vator aren’t boring. If that sounds like a grossly under-applied veneer of accomplishment, know that dynamism and maintained interest are...startlingly rare. For a genre that has historically gotten by on singles and lots of filler, packing a punch with all 8 tracks is a victory. Let there be no doubt: as long as high energy bands like Void Vator are doing the rounds and writing kickass tunes, rock ain’t going anywhere. Keep fighting the good fight.
Void Vator’s (highly recommended) Stranded was released Nov. 22nd, 2019 from Ripple Music
Void Vator can be found:
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!