Monday, January 12, 2015

So you're looking for an early album of the year contender, huh?

Well here she is, ladies and germs.

This has been available on cassette since late 2014 but the CD and LP are just out now and thus I'm counting it as a 2015 release. 

VOLAHN - Aq' ab' al

    His name is Eduardo Ramirez and he is the man behind Volahn. Guitarist, bassist, drummer, keyboardist, flutist, vocalist, song writer, main man behind SoCal's Black Twilight Circle of metal musicians and quite possibly the progenitor of the most interesting Black Metal in the world today. 

    If you can't tell by the cover, Volahn is a man obsessed with his Mayan culture and that obsession is not lost in his style of Black Metal. The typical tropes are there sure. But when you combine them with melody, spanish style guitar and psychedelia you have something all it's own. It mirrors the Mayan culture of blood sacrifice, beautiful art and architecture, astrology and ingesting psychedelic mushrooms. It's tough to find an original sound these days and Volahn and his whole Black Twilight crew are leading the way.

    The lyrics here are on spoken in Spanish but it doesn't make a difference. Lyrics are posted on the band camp page in Spanish and English. Opening track Najtir Ickik is about the beginnings of the holographic universe and the two things fighting for control; good and chaos. The lyrics here are really spot on if you know anything about the subject matter. The production is raw, the drums are pummeling and the guitar is memorable, especially when he hits these clean, soaring, majestic passages. They sit with you long after the album is over. 13 minutes fly by in the blink of an eye like a blast of DMT. Never a dull moment. Never checking how much longer the track is, even during the closing ambient portion.

    From what I can gather Halhi K'hoba is about Mayan gods coming together to give humans the gift of consciousness bringing forth the evolution of everything into a more complex state. This is more straight forward than the opener. Great stuff yet a little bit less interesting. But again when he hits those soaring, melodic guitar moments they are a treat. At 5 minutes long I kind of feel cheated. Volahn really shines on longer tracks so this almost feels like a throwaway. Almost.

    Bonampak tells the story of Mayan Jaguar Warriors heading into battle, defeating their foe and taking prisoners to bring back to sacrifice at their temple. The drums on this album are constantly pummeling you. They never let up. They are the Jaguar Warrior behind the basis of Volahn. The mid point of this song is just absolutely beautiful stuff. There's a reason I called him Black Metal's most interesting and original guitarist. I imagine this portion as the triumphant moment victory was secured. The drums get a bit of a ritualistic vide and I can imagine the scene the Mayans surrounding the temple, flames dancing under the moonlight, the king in all his garb at the very top calling for some poor souls head. There's an acoustic passage here intertwined with some flute that is really compelling. I can picture the mesmerized village taking in the spirit of the enemy warriors that were sacrificed at their temple. Calming, serene, beautiful in it's own way.

Quetzalcoatl is an ode the Mayan creator of humanity, the feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl. Volahn is always Volahn but he's added to his bag of tricks on this album. This one however, is vintage Volahn and it  contain's some of it's most memorable riffs. Volahn shines on longer tracks. There's an uplifting quality to this track. Raw and ugly as it is it's also beautiful and triumphant.

Koyopa carries that same vibe over and it may be the best song on the album. You can sense the sincerity in the atmosphere of these two songs. Volahn is praising his Mayan gods in the form of chaotic Black Metal for Koyopa or "lightning in the blood"which connects man to the cosmic energy of it's creator and the natural world. This contains the albums most memorable riffs and more beautiful acoustic guitar at the end bringing it to an outstanding close.

    Nawalik goes a bit darker than the rest of the album in the subject matter. The prayer and the sacrifice to the gods brings forth warriors from the mouth of a serpent preaching survival of the fittest but Volahn understands the place of his people is the beyond. The tone here is decidedly more aggressive and the transitions more jarring. There's a transcendence to the guitar. Everything must vanish. In the realm of the defleshed ones everything is like a dream...

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