Vouna Introduce Their Blend of Extreme Atmospheric Music
In her debut record with Vouna, Yianna Bekris combines the ferocity of black metal and the weight of doom/death with traditional Greek folk influences to produce an intriguing release.
9 November 2018
Yianna Bekris is a versatile musician and composer who has worked and collaborated with quite a few acts in the US underground scene. She is a member of black metal bands Eigenlicht and Sadhaka, as well as the neo-folk project Vradiazei. Now she prepares to venture on her own, with her new project Vouna.
The project released its first demo in 2018, unveiling a strong atmospheric leaning. Even though the demo featured the basic structures of what would later become her debut full-length, it still projected the silhouette of what would become Vouna's sound. Here Bekris explores the edges of extreme metal, from doom motifs that range from the funeral doom scene to the melancholic touch of acts like My Dying Bride. Black metal is not absent from this mix, and Bekris pays homage to both the traditional aesthetics of the genre, but also the more recent cascadian wave.
Despite the heavier, more complete sound of the debut, the atmosphere displayed in the demo still prevails. The introduction of the opening track "A Place to Rest" sees Bekris take a minimal approach with regard to how she crafts the ambiance, allowing the solitary vocals to lead the way before the sharp, distorted guitars join in. Similar is the case with "Last Dream", this time Bekris' stellar delivery is accompanied by the otherworldly synths, which build a ritualistic opus.
The epic black metal side takes a cue from this synth-driven approach, and it awakens the spirit of the old Scandinavian black metal scene, and more precisely the mid-period of the mighty Bathory, with their epic manifestation. The opening track sees this evolution, starting from an ambient presence before unleashing an imposing black metal assault. At the same time, the track takes on cascadian characteristics, with its ferocity radiating in a similar fashion to Wolves in the Throne Room. It is no coincidence that the record is coming out from Artemisia records, the label ran by Wolves in the Throne Room.
Despite the heavy black metal presence, the primary focus of the record is tilted towards a doom modus operandi. "Cattle" sees this aspect of Vouna come to light, as the melodic elements bring forth the lyricism of the '90s doom/death scene. And yet, Vouna will further drop the pace, moving into a funeral mode and resurrecting the spirit of Thergothon. The final part of "Drowning City" sees the fulfillment of this transformation, taking on an immensely heavy characteristic with its crushing riffs.
Bekris puts together a fascinating mixture of sounds and styles. The ambiance and lyrical aesthetics of the project were obvious since the release of the demo, but her scope has now been extended. With the razor-sharp guitars on hand and the dreamy synths on the other, she balances between an earthy grit and an ethereal presence. Still, she finds breathing space to allow for one of the most interesting twists of this project, and that is the Greek folk influence. The combination of bouzouki with the heavier structures in "Last Dream" sees this unearthly combination of black and doom with rebetiko. That is something I could never imagine, and I am still stunned by how well it works. The case is similar to the flute that appears in the mesmerizing "Drowning City", providing more depth to the progression of the track.
All these aspects make Vouna an excellent specimen of an extreme atmospheric record. Ethereal on one end, gritty and dirty on the other, filled with ambient passages and epic moments and some exquisite experimentalism. It ends up being a very strong, yet unfortunately short introduction to Bekris' vision. It will be very interesting to see how she proceeds from here.