VOODUS – Open the Otherness (2020)REVIEW

Desperate and highly competitive games of solipsistic infantilism spread thin even as an anti-social creature, where a preoccupied ‘Self’ must define their disenfranchisement for the sake of existence beyond æsthetic quandary. The excepted individual unknowingly becomes wet with the greater pooling of the outsider only as long as this wave of realization lasts, being yet limited to one’s own social experience. The non-conformist bears no notable wake when supplied with enough followers to feel any considerable aftershock, the self-buffering ouroboros of thy sycophant nature! The impermanence of this state, chosen or not, becomes more glaring with age as new generations follow the most compellingly defiant trends with predictable circular motions throughout history. Of course some methods, thought processes, movements and stylistic choices made in putrid sky-reaching taste haven’t any hope of considerable numbers. A solid example? Even the most popular era of melodic black metal ceased to resemble itself when millions gathered for it. Paths tread away from austerity towards otherness either circle back or self-bludgeon within predictable isolated impasse and yet the serpent never loses the taste of its own tail. I’d suggest Kungälv, Sweden-based melodic black metal quartet Voodus had finally spit out the tail and lunged for the throat of Caelus around 2018 — Upon completion of ‘Into the Wild‘, a record that’d found them shaking free the too-tightened shackles of orthodoxy after well over a decade. Their latest work, ‘Open the Otherness’ is loop broken and black wings spread in revolt of earthen chains, disfiguring all but the most celestial ambition in its realization.

Originally formed in Uddevalla (an extra hour north of Gothenburg) as Jormungand it’d take about a decade of refinement beyond their original blistering pure black metal terrorism to arrive upon ‘Visions of the Past, Which Has Not Yet Come to Be…’ (2014) a very reasonable Swedish black metal record with strong melodic intent. By all means Voodus was entirely themselves even within a past shell but refinement and highest standards were reached beyond the name change in 2015. As their brothers in Valkyrja will attest, if you’ve nothing to do with viking metal it doesn’t always work out to maintain an obviate mythological figure for a name. Voodus in perpetuity crafted several EP releases from that point in a style that could be most easily likened to ‘Lawless Darkness’-era Watain or Grafvinir, which’d suggest some devotion but not direct emulation of classic Dissection and nearby contemporaries and adherents. The release that’d sparked my own interest was undoubtedly ‘Serpent Seducer Saviour‘ (2017) and though I think nothing less of their first EP (‘NightQueen‘, 2015) it was that second EP that truly said “We’ve something bigger in mind than before.” and that’d ultimately be justified by ‘Into the Wild’ the next year. I could certainly dump two years of thought on Voodus‘ debut LP here but it’d be doubly exhausting for the reader and it’d be moot — ‘Open the Otherness’ remedies any of the slight criticisms I’d had back in 2018. Nonetheless the context of that debut is vitally important to understanding the weight of this EP, listen to both, observe 2018 as the “tide in” and 2020 observe the worlds revealed with the “tide out”.

Did Swedish melodic black metal ever truly outdo the core No Fashion experience at its most sacred? Or have we all just canvassed over it with fresh skin and sigil? I’m inclined to grip my bootleg copy of Decameron‘s ‘My Shadow…‘ to my chest and suggest it’ll never be done but in reality there is yet plenty of room for strong motions to be made within the medium while pointing to Voodus‘ unique set of extended pieces on ‘Open the Otherness’. Each of the two songs are roughly ~12 minutes in action and undoubtedly focused on the world beyond the veil. The title track is a blast upon the portal, a spray of black-blooded acid to singe free the hinges of this cosmic gate. “Pillars of Fire” is the conflict in passage and the freed mind beyond, in rapturous lunacy. In slightly more practical terms this boils down to two well-constructed melodic black metal songs with extended atmospheric interludes that generally focus the tension of each section before bursting into heavier moments. This is very much akin to the longer form pieces Dawn were experimenting with on ‘Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy)’ only Voodus do not bear any of the Gothenburg melodic death metal style in their attack. I see the entirety of the experience as an inspired reprisal, a bolstering of what ‘Into the Wild’ was doing to the point of pushing entirely past it towards a greater unknown destination.

Oeuvre is expanded on all counts, more is more and everything about ‘Open the Otherness’ indicates a band of old professionals capable of meeting a flood of ideas head-on and crafting something impressive out of the excess. Stunning self-referential and motif-aggrandizing melodic black metal riffs, soaring atmospheric dread throughout, and strong incorporation of (what I’d consider) melodic death/doom metal influences means ‘Open the Otherness’ feels vast, ‘epic’ and aligned with some rueful, torturous cosmic deity in action. Despite how it’d feel in the midst of the nigh narrative lead guitar work throughout there is some very taut balance keeping all potential pitfalls in check, avoiding either piece becoming too saccharine or too typically melodic and still with some attachment to classic melodic black metal. It isn’t a sub-genre entry so much as it is a style that will appeal primarily to that sect while likely catching the ear of the average Uada, Mgła or even Ascension fan. The only issue I’d run into along the way pertained to not feeling much for the ‘rock’ soloing when it pops up at the end of “Pillars of Fire”. I get why it works and how the EP itself almost has this Bay Area thrash balladry inherit to its mood and bent but it feels anticlimactic when it its.

The exact right shit hits the fan about three minutes into “Open the Otherness” and this is ultimately enough to get all cylinders of my own melodic black metal obsession firing. Although both songs generally hit their mark I did grow tired of the extended nature of the quieter sections when leaving the EP on repeat for a handful of hours. I doubt most folks will push the record to such an extreme test but it does clarify how the full listen might hold up over time with greater familiarity. I didn’t have strong feelings about Voodus‘ music before spending times with ‘Open the Otherness’ but this release has convinced me of their great ambitions being realized here and perhaps on a higher level in the future. A high recommendation.

High recommendation.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
Info:
ARTIST:VOODUS
TITLE:Open the Otherness
TYPE:EP
LABEL(S):Shadow Records/Regain
RELEASE DATE:June 26th, 2020
BUY/LISTEN/STREAM:Bandcamp [Digital]
GENRES:Melodic Black Metal

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