Vulkan (the Swedish word for Volcano) is a heavy progressive rock band from Karlstad, Sweden. They started out in 2006, making a few recordings under a different name which they later changed to reflect the heavier sound they were creating. Heavy, epic and with a true sense of melody wrapped within a musical structure that is clearly Prog, this is Vulkan.
The band’s previous full length albums are Mask Of Air (2011) and Observants (2016). The Swedish group now unveil their third album, Technatura, which is as lovingly crafted as its predecessors – epic and heavy, tuneful and prog-driven in equal measures. Its probably fair to say that on Technatura the band has refined their musical arrangements from the two previous releases and distilled these into a bit of a musical rollercoaster.
The album has a theme running through it, a concept based on the constant battle between technology and nature that is making its citizens slaves under an oppressive society of surveillance and big data that deceives with corporate lies and chokes the life out of humanity and Mother Nature. Throughout the album, Technatura maintains a consistently high level of progressive musicianship underpinning a lyrical story that displays a myriad of textures and emotions, Vulkan have woven through the twelve tracks a remarkable blend of ethereal and dreamlike ambiences with heavy and complex, sometimes industrial, rhythms.
These are no “boy wonders”! Although I don’t know the band members, I think it’s safe to assume they’ve all paid their musical dues over some years, and this is reflected in the very high quality of their musicianship. As a listener you are pulled into the deep abyss of the unknown; juggling the struggle between the good and the bad, the calm before the storm; and then into the eye of the storm.
The album starts with a bit of an epic, the nine minute long This Visual Hex, which opens with a wonderfully ‘light’ touch of staccato percussion, really attention-grabbing!
But all the tracks continue this happy mix of heavy riffs interspersed with very gentle, pastoral, polished, percussive sections. It reminds me of early Yes in terms of the complexity and length of the compositions, and the comparison does Vulkan huge credit, they really are very accomplished musicians!
Continuing through the selection, I adore Klagens Snara, a short “instrumental” (there are deep bass Gregorian-monkish mantras but no lyrics). Again it underlines the intricacy and delicacy of their creations, I’m fascinated with their style of song composition. This flows seamlessly into Rekviem, one of several tracks sung in Swedish, and their vocal harmonies are so strong that the words wash hypnotically over me. Blinding Ornaments has hints of electronica whilst still featuring riveting rhythms. Which sets you up for the huge, sprawling The Royal Fallacy – over ten minutes of a sort of light-weight alt-metal-prog creation that swirls around you, a short chunk of ‘screamo’ vocals introducing sections by turns pastoral and industrial – a real shame I didn’t have the lyrics to hand at the time of review, but in no way diminishing the majesty of the arrangements or the playing. The album finishes with The Madness Sees No End, an almost bombastic Alt-Metal track that somehow has hints of Avenged Sevenfold for me. It’s not often you can link the Avenged with Yes in adjacent paragraphs but that underlines the breadth of Vulkan’s creativity and playing!
So, to sum up, Vulkan as a band have created in Technatura one of the most interesting prog rock albums I’ve heard in recent years. The quality of production (given that this is self-released) and the mix of musical styles and variety of compositional song structures kept me entranced from start to finish and I believe the album will appeal to lots of folk of all sorts of musical tastes – certainly Prog, Alt-Rock, Metal, and plain old Heavy Rock. The band and their production team are to be congratulated on a work of true musical beauty. Have a listen and prove me wrong!