Norway has a vibrant music scene, and I’ve featured on this blog a number of bands and artists from the Scandinavian nation, including No Mind State, Sherpa, Antipole and Lazy Queen. My latest find is alternative rock quartet Vöödöö. Formed in late 2014 and based in Bergen, the band consists of Gøran Stavang Skage (Vocals), Sveinung Fossan Bukve (Guitar), Stian Brungot (Bass) and Giuliano Antonio LoMonaco (Drums). They combine powerful rock beats with massive guitar riffs and catchy melodies to create their exciting modern sound, which is showcased on their debut album Ashes. The album dropped in mid-September, after the release over the past several months of a number of singles that are featured on the album.
In their bio, they describe the elements of their music thusly: “The unique sound of Vöödöö comes from the band’s wide span in musical background and approach. Guitarist Sveinung Bukve is a gear-freak with a vast selection of pedals, sometimes combined to create overwhelming huge effects more similar to an organ or a spacecraft than an actual guitar, sometimes more controlled to cut through the mix with in-your-face riffs. The rhythm section is all about hard beats and hard bass fingering, though dynamic, it is about making you feel the beat, not only in your eardrums but through the torso and into the home of your soul. Last but definitely not least, Vöödöö will charm you all the way with the high-pitched mind-baffling vocals of the theatrical Gøran.”
So let’s dig into Ashes to see if Vöödöö lives up to the hype. The album opens strong with the sensational title track “Ashes,” immediately hooking us in with a spooky chord and strong drumbeat, followed by a cascade of jangley riffs. The guitars, bass and drums intertwine nicely with Gøran’s soaring impassioned vocals as they all build to a spine-tingling crescendo halfway into the track. Then Sveinung unleashes a blistering gnarly riff as Stian’s deep bass and Giuliano’s crashing cymbals bring things to a dramatic finish before ending with a drawn out repeat of the opening guitar chord. It’s a fantastic song, and listen for yourself to hear what I’m talking about:
Next up is the anthemic “Lay Me to Rest,” Vöödöö’s very first single release and a sizable hit, earning over 110,000 plays on Spotify. I can see why, as it’s a real banger, with a heavy, pounding beat, hard-driving bass and jagged guitar riffs that’ll have you shouting “fuck yeah!” Gøran brings chills as he all but screams: “But the only thing I want from you is to save me from being scared. Love me, then disappear. Hold me, then let me go. Drag me, but I’ll never face the fire to see you again.” The guitar work is outstanding, and I love the little flourishes of piano synths sprinkled throughout.
By the time the third track “The Secret” plays, I’m hooked on this band. I love their melodic, thumping rhythms, killer guitars and Gøran’s fiery vocals that bring unbridled passion to every track. And “Dots” has all these qualities in spades. The track starts off with a cool keyboard synth-driven melody, fuzzy guitars and lots of crashing cymbals. Suddenly, it’s all ripped apart by a stabbing cadence of gritty riffs and Gøran’s frenzied vocals that leave me gasping for breath all the way to the end.
Vöödöö continue delivering hard-hitting rock goodness with “Shine On,” the bluesy “Broken Cage,” and the frenetic “Let it Burn.” But one of my favorite tracks is “King and Clown,” a monumental work that borders on symphonic rock. This song has it all – catchy as hell surf guitar, dramatic, achingly beautiful melodies, heart-stopping percussion, and gorgeous soaring vocal harmonies. But the real highlight is Gøran’s jaw-dropping vocal gymnastics that bring a new layer of chills on top of the ones already caused by the incredible instrumentals. This man can sing! He alternately seduces, pleads and screams, his voice nearly reaching the breaking point as he wails “Freedom is power you know. It’s not over. Free from deception and lies, it’s not over.” My god, this is an awesome song!
They close the album with “The Rope,” a slow, mournful song that’s a major departure from their other hard-rocking songs. The brief but beautiful tune opens with only an acoustic guitar, accompanied by Gøran’s sorrowful vocals, then is joined in the second half by a gnarly electric guitar that seems to convey the sense of heartbreak expressed in the lyrics: “When you are gone. Left me here, I’m hanging by the rope. You broke, even though you never meant to hurt.”
To sum up, Ashes is a phenomenal album and an impressive debut for this talented band of musicians. Their songwriting, musicianship and vocals are incredible, and they should be very proud of this work.