on 6 March 2012
I'd never heard of this band until stumbling across the video for "Wormholes" on Youtube, then having cursory listens to some of their other tracks from "Via" on the Mediaskare channel. I must say, I was hooked. So, I hastily bought the disc before I bored myself with some of the tracks before getting a listen to the whole and paying some dues to the band themselves. Several weeks in, I still "Via" regularly with no boredom. Allow me to explain why...
For fear of entering the inane debate about whether it's a genre or not and whether it exists (it's all six and half a dozen anyway), Volumes are definitely part of the post-Meshuggah "djent" movement. The rhythm guitar is often a loyal emulation of Meshuggah and Tesseract and at least one Schecter 8-string guitar can be seen sported in the "Wormholes" video. Volumes add from their evident hardcore roots here with a healthy injection of groove, mixing the 'djent' sound and Meshuggah's recent love of low-end let-ring resonance (see: verse riff of Electric Red, main riff of Obzen) into breakdowns and tight, Fear Factory-like 'rhythm cell' sequences. On their own, they are effective, but it is how they it the rest that makes them simply awesome.
In some hardcore-inspired music, we hear such gimmicks and excesses as the breakdown silent but for crashing on one cymbal with the odd interjection from an asynchronous chug on the lowest string of a guitar. Volumes steer far away from any such thing, by keeping each element of their sound as part of a gestalt whole. Each song is driven along by hard, syncopated crushing riff-tides, but they are there as the vehicle for haunting, drifting melody layers and thoughtful, worldly lyrics (albeit only really intelligible with help from the album sleeve). Not to say that the two are simply distantly allied sounds, instead they complement and harmonise like yin and yang: the harsh vocals, punching drums and seismic low-end guitars empower the droning, airy melody and rich texture, while the latter gives meaning and depth to the former. They also cross eachothers' territory, occasionally exchanging places, with the guitars contributing a harmonic element to the droning melody and the odd cleanly-sung verse emerging at the climax of a song.
In similar ways to the likes of Textures and Tesseract and even in some ways like Exivious and Cynic, the songs have a drifting, flowing quality, helped only in part by their freeform structures (instead of the verse-chorus... business). Where it excels compared to other soundscape-focussed djent is that this quality mostly arises from the way the melodies and textures develop and gradually evolve. Volumes are never given to an excess of one thing: whether some of that let-ring chugging, a tight rhythm cell sequence, airy chords, multi-dimensional harmony, whatever. They never bombard you with a single theme, but also never have fiddly, misplaced 'blink-and-you'll-miss-it' flourishes. Each section is allowed to play out quite deliberately, before it begins to organically develop in its own time as if let to its own devices than actually played. Again, not to say the songs lack structure or grounding - they have strong, well-defined tructures, the sections simply string together in a very natural fashion.
To distinguish from other soundscape-focussed 'djent', the melodies played on guitar and on the odd bit of electronics are deep, emotional and contemplative, at once showing haunting mystery and powerful feeling. With or without the lyrics, these create striking pieces of music. One of the best examples is the climactic "Intake", which starts with a blissful but also longing crystalline guitar-and-electronics section then goes on to finish with a soaring solo. The result is a song that could bring a tear to a glass eye. Melody and texture are a place where Volumes stand out among those that they might be compared to, and they repeatedly demonstrate their strong grasp of the craft.
On the vocals, it was interested to hear guttural early 90's Lemay- and Schuldiner-style death metal vocals long after their zenith and in this style of music! It even worked!
From one who has often found anything hardcore distasteful, "Via" has me excited about music more than anything has for a good, long while (evident in the length of the above?).
Definitely an album who likes to lose his or herself in their music: this is one to go berserk in the moshpit to as well as one for solitary contemplation.