Released on 30 March 2023
For fans of Neurosis, Amenra, Gravehuffer
Sludge/Doom/Post-metal band VAV was founded in Speyer, Germany in 2018. Paths (2023) is their second full-length album. Like many bands over the last few years, this album is the result of enforced lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
I like a good solid slab of sludge metal, or a depressing dollop of doom. After this album dropped into my inbox I scheduled it immediately. And then I listened to it.
Let me start with the positives. I really like the cover of this album. It is dark and mysterious. It draws you in. It features a path into a dark forest. Hey! The title of the album is ‘Paths’. Brilliant! It fits perfectly.
There are eight tracks. The number eight was my sister’s favourite number when she was growing up. Mine was four—and eight is four times two.
The band are from Germany. I’m reading a book about Germany history. No, not that German history—later than that, the 1960s.
I’m clearly clutching at straws.
I don’t wish to be unkind or rude, but I do want to be balanced and honest with this review.
The truth is, sadly this album and I didn’t get along very well.
It wasn’t just the rough production or the lack of balance between the instruments (and especially the distant, gurgling vocals) although that clearly had a part to play. It was more to do with the heart of the songs themselves—there is an emptiness, a soullessness. There is a sparsity to many of these songs, a lack of conviction, a hesitancy. At worst it felt like two halves of two different bands turned up and jammed different songs at the same time; at best it felt that we were listening to an early demo. But as I progressed through the album, track by track it consistently felt like each song wasn’t much more than a sketch of something that required more work.
“VAV (intro)” (track 1) stutters and stumbles for nearly three-and-a-half minutes, with little in terms of musical ideas or even enthusiasm. It is a sorrowful start to an album. “Needs” (track 2) lifts the pace a little but again lacks any life. Even when the tempo speeds up, it feels like forced banter and simply gets pulled down by the monotonous vocal drawl.
“Stoner” (track 3) lasts over nine minutes long. By “Walk about” (track 4) I felt that the album must surely be nearly finished already. “Interlude” (track 5) is completely incongruous, a stumbled swing jazz improvisation that clearly doesn’t fit with the rest of the album and sadly at times doesn’t even seem to fit with itself. It is hesitant and awkward.
The remainder of the album trudges along much like the first half. “Dead end” (track 6) suffers from a lack of discipline as it … again that word, hesitates. Kraft’s sorrowful, throaty vocals offer little in terms of either lifting the songs or even enhancing the song’s atmosphere.
“Nekya” (track 7) is really the only song to offer any kind of musical interest with an eastern-sounding scale that lifts the dial on the interest-o-meter above 5 for the first time on this album. Even the occasional gruff vocal and overly-dramatic pause is not enough to knock this track off course.
There are many answers I could offer to the question posed in the final track on this album, “Where did you go” (track 10). Although, I’m not entirely sure it is a question due to the irritating lack of punctuation. The interesting alt-rock style arpeggios are soon battered down with the weight of the sorrowful sludge-esque monolith that crushes the life out of everything in its path.
I always listen to new albums with a hope. I hope that I will like it. I hope that I will catch something of the composers’ vision and see the world, if only for a moment, through their eyes. This album… I am really sorry but I just did not connect with this. It didn’t move me—at least not in a good way. This is as bad as the week I’ve just had. There are a few tender moments, a few sparks of good … but the rest I found quite painful. This is not a path I will be taking again.
Review score: 35%
MDPR contacted me inviting me to preview VAV’s latest album, thank you. I have no connections to either MDPR or VAV. I’m not being paid to review this. But I did get a free digital copy of the album to review which is pretty cool. Many thanks to Zach from MDPR and to VAV for giving me something to do on a Thursday evening.