VODUN – Eat Up The Sun
aaamusic | On 16, Apr 2013
Sometimes when you least expect it, a band comes completely out of the blue, and redefines your expectations of what today’s music is all about. I approached Vodun’s debut EP with, yes, some complacency. Their voodoo atmosphere may have piqued my interest, but as a new band on the New Heavy clubnight circuit, what could Vodun offer that I hadn’t heard before? The answer? Seven tracks of fiercely innovative and near-faultless music that blew me out of my bayou of dismissiveness and into a sinister, electrifying realm of primal awe.
The EP creeps up on you, starting with a scene-soundbite speaking of how voodoo has given powers to woman, before the glorious ‘Eat Up The Sun’ starts. Building with a guitar squall and revving-up bass/percussion hits, the riff that follows is gritty and almost brutal in its treble-bass-heavy growl, the guitar tone reminiscent of Sepultura, yet the melody itself owes just as much to classic rock with its primal swagger and deft combination of swaggering seductiveness and technicality all backed up by tribal-tinged metal drumming heavy on the cymbals and toms, and a clean vocal melody with hints of power metal, pop, and Skunk Anansie that is almost ridiculously catchy given the context, as a cascade of ascending and descending notes follow the burst of a great melodic hook and sustained notes in the chorus. Coming to a stomping conclusion, the listener is next faced by the almost suspenseful ‘Red Flag’. Despite its pounding percussive attack and chugging guitars, the vocals pull the proceedings back, with a slower delivery that almost croons with a high-register sense of fear, shadowed by faint harmonised echoes. The dynamic swaps for the chorus, with the guitars pulling back into snarling low-end surges and the vocals powering forwards into rapidfire delivery. The song builds on the riff and a held keyboard note hovering like a curse over the stuttering riff and chant of “it’s not natural” before one last chorus battering.
‘Erzulie’ has an opening grittier, filthier and more chaotic than a song has any right to be, with a bass-ridden seismic rumble surging from the speakers in schizoid outbursts, while the vocals call out “don’t call me Jesus, I’m not your saviour” before a mesmerizingly churning outburst of sound erupts into machine-gun snares and floor-shaking guitars, and a heavy metal climax forms, building in speed and featuring a perfectly-pitched treble-heavy distorted guitar that reaches breakneck speeds to cries of the vocals, and a sudden halt, laugh, and back to the opening. To contrast, ‘Bondye’ is an almost cartoonish interim moment of electronica-tinted keyboard noises, developing a sinister edge thanks to the preceding track. And then out of nowhere comes the no-frills impact of ‘Aida Wedo’, with its trembling guitar builds accommodating thrilling vocal calls of “whatever happens we will never back down” leading to crushing stomps of cymbal/snare/bass guitar. A surge back to a brooding vocal-and-percussion-driven build leads to a brutally heavy breakdown, the drums always perfectly used to squeeze the most impact from what is in many ways a minimal style, relying on rapid snare rolls and tidal cymbals to get the point across.
‘Mawu’, the penultimate track, marries a stellar, almost angelic vocal melody to a guttaral yet catchy instrumental, the two almost seeming to come from different songs yet together they remain tighter than Scrooge’s budget in an airlock, even when the track effortlessly swoops into a galloping finale that every metal band would give their double kick pedals and Ibanezes to be able to pull off, before one last punch from the soaring, powerful chorus. To finish is the pounding assault of ‘Zaka’, which use the fragility that is forever submerged in the vocals to great effects by channelling it into savage whoops and surging attacks, which rally the snarling metal into an exhilarating call to arms, and the tribal percussion section slots into place perfectly between more metal-influenced sections. The song rises to fever pitch, before sinking into sinister spirit-charming hush, the most ominous rise possible finishing the EP, as the band drift into wordless vocal lines that are framed by stabbing low-end chords and discords and rabid drumming that is heavy on stuttering snares and the ever-present tidal rushes of cymbals cutting through the sludgy tones.
Like I said – it’s rare for me to get this excited by a debut EP, but when I realised I was powering through several days of writing about modernist literature humming ‘Eat Up The Sun’ and irritating the library occupants either side, I knew there was something special happening here. Not everyone can remain so savage and so catchy, and to top it all off incorporate one of the best vocal abilities in underground heavy music I’ve heard in a long while. And how on earth can a debut EP suffer “good album syndrome” and have seven non-filler tracks? If you like your music to be inventive and technically proficient but keep one eye firmly on how to write a damn good song and its third eye set on hexing the art of writing a distorted riff into the most powerful undead servitude the world has seen, then Vodun will be a delight to rival anything Marie Laveau could offer. I for one bow down to the voodoo doom and surrender my soul.