Monday, 3 December 2012

Voltron - Kaventsmann (album review)

Voltron is a sludge metal band from Berlin, Germany who  show a nice versatility of styles, thickly layered atmospherics and plenty of dynamics.  Kaventsmann is their second full-length album.

The album starts off with one of my favorite film quotes of all-time, from the movie Network, it's actually a quote I myself have used as an introduction before:  "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!".  From there the gauntlet is thrown down with an ascending/descending riff that throws a blanket of paranoia over the uptempo "13  Liter Bohrmaschine".  Throughout the proceedings, the band relies heavily on ambient noise that red lines and spins out of control, the recording device not quite managing to capture what the band puts out.  This makes for some intense moments and means that this the kind of album one should listen to on headphones turned way up for full effect.

"Black to Back" opens more downtempo with a nautically themed riff before exploding for a big chorus, again redlining intensely.  At this point drummer Hille Toughsky deserves to be singled out for a ... well, a tough performance behind the kit.  He's a heavy hitter and in no place is this more clear than on the chorus in this track.  "Studentoeter" opens with two minutes of atmospherics before opening into a nautical riff which builds to an explosive and chaotic verse and continues to build into a crushing, chunky chorus.  Again, the band's versatility of styles, atmospherics and use of dynamics come to the fore here, creating a memorable performance.  "Helmut Berger at Salzburg Airport" develops in much the same way but is even slower.

"Pitti Platsch Anoraknaroek" and "Medic Help!" is Voltron in its purest form.  A straightforward showcase of what they're all about, at just over five minutes apiece they are the shortest tracks on the album.  The band is never content to simply blast out thick streams of face-smashing sludge, there's always more to their agenda and it's like the band just can't help themselves but take the listener to uncomfortable or strange places.  "Faster Than Nothing Still Can Be Slow" is comparable to these two in its more streamlined reading, but the band leave themselves plenty of room to move around in and experiment with sound.

Overall, the album is a very strong entry into the sludge metal genre, which is not always my go to genre.  This one will have me coming back for more though and has increased the very genre's profile to these ears, which will now be perked up while digging into the sludge ditch more frequently for quality ear-crushing sounds.  Kaventsmann envelops the listener in a claustrophobic fog, then throws him overboard to feel the crushing depths of redlining fury. Voltron build songs dynamically, often starting with ethereal atmospherics, then unleashing heavy blasts of pure power creating an impression that the band is just swimming in ideas, most of which come across successfully.  The band can build songs the opposite way as well, opening with a tidal wave of sound which crashes down, then a moment of chaos as the listener is sucked into the next swell, then bang! crashed back down on the beach again.  Obviously, the reader can see from the verbiage alone, let alone the album art and perhaps some of the song titles (I know platsch is splash in English) that there are heavy nautical themes to the album.  Perhaps these themes are not as emphasized as in the music of the band (and fellow German doomsters) Ahab, but they are no less developed and are no less successful in engrossing the listener in a watery experience.

Highlights include: "13 Liter Bohrmaschine" and "Pitti Platsch Anoraknaroek"

Rating: 4/5

Total Run Time: 55:50

From: Berlin, Germany

Genre: Sludge Metal, Doom

Reminds me of: AhabMount Fuji, -(16)-

Release Date: September 1, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Thrown overboard, dragged to crushing depths.

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