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(57:21, Progrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Me In The Dark 6:05 2. The Pun 5:09 3. Passing Sears 4:28 4. Train Back Home 6:02 5. The Hunt is On 6:52 6. Away 5:55 7. Look at Me Now 5:49 8. Time Must Have a Stop 10:50 LINEUP: Maciej Kosinski – vocals Adam Kaczmarek – guitar Aleksander Salamonik – guitar Zbigniew Szatkowski – keyboards Bartek Turkowski – bass Adam Lukaszek – drums
Prolusion. VOTUM is a band from Poland that was formed in 2003. They started recording their debut album in 2006 and initially it was issued by a Polish label in January 2008. US label Progrock Records signed the band in October of the same year, subsequently re-releasing the CD.
Analysis. Poland has been something of a hotbed for progressive rock the last few years, spawning many new acts with a popular appeal in progressive rock circles and beyond. Votum is the latest of those; its debut album was met by a very positive reaction when first issued, and even drew comparisons to the arguably most popular act in the genre in their own country, Riverside. And there is a certain similarity between these two acts. The tendency to insert lush but dark and ambient or industrial-tinged passages in their compositions as well as the general melancholy and dark atmosphere created in their songs are the main ones though. As musical ventures go Votum is much more of a purebred progressive metal outfit, rarely exploring as vast a sonic canvas as their fellow countrymen. A general tendency on this album is that the songs open up in a calm, mellow manner, with piano, synths or gentle guitar layers serving up pleasant-sounding melodic themes. The composition rapidly evolves to encompass a distinct metal sound and either stays mostly within these boundaries until the end or finishes with a calm segment pretty similar to the opening one. The metal parts of the compositions are dominated by guitars, mixing drawn out riffs with slow to mid-paced riff patterns. Innovative explorations combining these features are mixed with repetitive and by-the-book explorations, one or more predictable passages followed by investigations of a more creative variety or vice versa. The most striking feature is the sound and mix of the guitars though, most times resulting in an almost overly dominating cascade of distorted guitars, a massive wall of sound. In addition to calmer passages inserted in the proceedings as already mentioned, synths are placed in the back of the mix to add textures and details to these explorations, as well as being a central albeit never dominant element for the truly majestic soundscapes created in key parts of the compositions. A feature that also appears with regular intervals is gentle piano themes added to the massive-sounding guitar layers, an effective contrast that does add some fascinating details to the excursions on this release. The element in these ventures that grabbed my attention early on was the drums though. Often atypical of the genre, quirky yet laidback patterns and unpredictable evolutions added a few extra nuances to these tracks. Often I got the feeling that the drummer to a certain extent leads the other musicians from one passage to the next, but in an intriguing manner. Some select brief runs and quirky ventures really added to the overall feel of the individual tracks as well as the album as a whole.
Conclusion. "Time Must Have a Stop" is a strong and interesting debut from Polish act Votum. Not a flawless production, but one with few if any general weak points to it. The massive guitar sound used may alienate some fans of progressive rock though, and although there are some innovative features to this outing I suspect that this is a creation that first and foremost will have a strong appeal for a metal audience, with fans of non-progressive metal just as likely to appreciate this effort as those who prefer the progressive variety.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: April 1, 2009
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