I was excited to hear the new release from Vola. I enjoyed Inmazes and the way the riff driven album flirted with a bunch of genres from prog to djent. The new Vola album, Applause Of A Distant Crowd is a comment on our relationships with technology and the friends we have that we interact with using technology. A concept album then? Kind of…
The first track We Are Thin Air starts as a good introduction. There’s a fat riff in there that makes my ears pop and my feet tap. The chorus has some electronic business in the form of a piano and on first listen, it sounds a bit out of place, but actually fits with the rest of the album.
The second track, Ghosts, doesn’t fuck around with it’s electronic influence and smacks you in the face with a poppy melody before it drops into a laid back first verse. The vocals remind me a bit of Leprous. Just a bit mind. Back to the chorus and I’m tempted to skip the track the first time, but the album is a grower. It’s got a really underhanded 80s feel to it. Both in the vocals and the various melodies that don’t come from guitars scattered around the 10 track album.
Smartfriend sounds a like the stuff that Asger Mygind and his posse put out on Inmazes in 2016. The layers on this track are amazing, it’s depth something you cannot appreciate on just one listen. There’s some electronic stuff on this track too, but it’s subtle and less in your face than Ghosts. There are chugging riffs and staccato guitars all over the shop and a sublime change of pace around 02:28. This tracl has got it all and is something I hope they’re proud of. Can’t wait to see it live.
Dripping into Ruby Pool, we step down a gear. This song wouldn’t sound out of place on a Porcupine Tree album. Some beautiful vocal work, layered instruments and something to get you in the right frame of mind for Alien Shivers. Taking a leaf out of recent Arcane Roots albums, it’s floaty, flighty and has some sweet riffs. It starts slow, builds up, breaks down and then ends on a remarkable cacophony of layers.
Vertigo is a sound scape, a bit like a film score. It never really gets going, but is a welcome break between Alien Shivers and the crunching intro to Still. Yet more electronic sounds spattered through this track, but they work. The album found it’s feet a few songs ago and has worked out a decent balance between the sounds. The electronic stuff complementing the more traditional Vola sound.
The title track, Applause of a Distant Crowd has one some of the best opening lyrics on a song ever ‘Watch me now, I’m vanishing in the light/I photograph my latest meal in black and white/I kept my faith in videos of cats in shoes/and spend the day on episodes on plastic youths.‘. Musically, it draws from the rest of the songs on the album, the same structural noisy/quiet dichotomy, using the electronic instruments to complement the vocals. The bassline really stands out on this track too.
Whale opens with another stonking riff and more etheral vocals. It’s one of the riffiest songs on the album, but the whole track is layerd beautifully. That’s something that can be said for a lot of the album, it has a lot of fat hooks, wrapped with some electronic noise that makes me keep coming back to it.
Green Screen Mother is OK. It’s a piano track and you can take it or leave it. It’s undoubtedly soulful and harmonic, but I thought it was a weak ending to an otherwise enjoyable album.
This album is good, it gets better with multiple listens, but I don’t think it’ll be one I go back to particularly regularly. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad album, it’s full of great things, but I feel like Vola are trying to find a sound that suits them. I thought it was Inmazes, but now I think they’ve got more to give than that sound and, while this release is different, it’s not their final sound. Which is actually pretty exciting.
For Fans Of: Leprous, Isahn, Arcane Roots, Porcupine Tree