|Review: Vosbud - Heklugjá|
Year released: 2023
Genre: Black Metal
Review online: August 14, 2023
Reviewed by: Micah.Ram
Rated 4.75/5 (95%) (4 Votes)
I have no clear memory what obscure corner of the internet I travelled when I came across the Icelandic gem of an album by Vosbúð known as Heklugjá, but it kind of feels like hitting the metal jackpot, especially given I have not seen or heard a single other person mention this band. The band label their music as "Volcanic Black Metal" and certainly seem to follow that thematic trend if looking at the album cover for this record, as well as their previous and first effort released in 2019.
The band are a two-piece playing Black Metal which is often bright in tone, not unlike the bright tones of a band like Wiegedood. However, unlike the songs and writing style of Wiegedood, Vosbúð are the kind of band that want to take the listeners on an epic journey. These five tracks are lengthy, totaling over an hour and three minutes. The more epic writing and often flirtation with folky or dance-like rhythms and grooves often reminded me more of Havukruunu or Moonsorrow. However, to say this album sounds like any of those is also incorrect. To be completely fair, this just sounds like it belongs to a class of its own, and it serves as a musical journey I never want to escape once I turn it on. The sheer amount of development a single track may take on the album is inspiring and keeps me fully engaged, as it is free of dull moments. The middle track is unique in that it is an instrumental track which starts with this bright and dance-like phrase that repeats multiple times before evolving into a rather busy midsection and finish. The peaks often lead to bright places while divulging into darker territories, keeping the journey eventful. Perhaps the most memorable moment on the record for most, as is for me, is the crux of the final track, "Heklugjá," which occurs right at 9:24, when the listener reaches one of the many large fist-pumping sections with an uneven meter scheme and a strong melody that descends in a zig-zag melodic shape and rises again. The figure reappears again at 11:14, this time featuring more vocal variation with clean and masculine deep-chested vocals accompanying the incredible melody, a vocal feature which has also occurred in various areas in other tracks. The high speed comes to a quick halt at 15:36 and is met instantly with the sound of the organ, which also occurs in the first track. In many ways, the album appears to be a palindrome, as the outermost songs are similar in length and scope, and the same can be said for tracks 2 and 4. The middle track is the most different, further supporting the palindrome suggestion.
If there was only one element of Heklugjá that left me scratching my head, it was the fact that the production feels a bit scrappy, especially if you have been listening to other modern albums with cleaner production first. However, while I found myself sometimes wondering if cleaner production would add to the luster of the album, the rawness wears off fairly soon if you find yourself engaged in the music, and you will not find yourself wondering the "what ifs" about the production any further.
I discovered the album shortly after its release in January and began writing this review in February. I paused simply to enjoy the album longer, which ended up being a long while now that it is August. This will most definitely be a top 5 album for me by the end of the year and I strongly encourage anyone who enjoys Black Metal that takes its time to unravel grand journeys and dazzle with catchy and fun melodies, as well as powerful and triumphant moments.
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