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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Album Review: VŌDŪN – Possession

London turbo-doom trio, VŌDŪN, are a live act like no other. Dabbling in all things voodoo they paint their music and themselves accordingly and allow the crowd’s focus to fall naturally upon their vocal icon – one Chantal Brown (a.k.a. Oya), once member of Chrome Hoof. She is the veritable stick of dynamite with a crystalline, pulsing vocal that borders on the operatic. Crush that into a small room and throw in Ogoun and Marassa (her co-conspirators) and their gutsy, thundering backline and you’ve got an overwhelming burst of colour-drenched music.

One fleeting experience with them at the London Underworld, watching them steal the show from opening slot, was enough to burn their name onto my cortex; so it was a happy day when their debut album landed in my inbox. Could they reproduce anything like the same impact shorn of their visual show?

From the off, we quickly learn that their moniker refers to the god of the West African Yoruba people and their religion – the inspiration behind the distorted voodoo tropes we’ve all assimilated from the movies. Through a series of track-linking spoken passages, we also learn that the band can come across as a little preachy.

Skipping over that then, the music itself is indelibly marked with many of Skindred’s tribal touchpoints and rumbles along with a passionate, rhythmic flow. Oya’s enormous vocal immediately takes centre-stage which is only right considering the quality. I can see how the dominance of it could be a marmite issue and the shock value has diminshed somewhat from being within touching distance of it which is a shame. Any way you take it though, she sells every note and gives her all in an impassioned display of both control and range.

There are plenty of standout tracks: “Bloodstones” simmers with joyously soft blue notes that whip up into gutsy driven climaxes; her own “Oya” allows our resplendent vocalist to fully stretch out her peacock’s feathers; “Legbas Feast” brings in folky elements and enigmatic sounds of the jungle to create campfire music to dance to; and “Mawu” delivers an unctuously thick, fuzzed undercurrent that stands in direct contrast to Oya’s vocal clarity.

Having fully road-tested it, there is an unerring similarity between the tracks and the album loses its sense of purpose as it reaches its conclusion. One particular thorn is “Divinity” that quickly abandons its drive for a dissolute structure that skips between structural sections without truly defining any of them.

VŌDŪN’s number one selling point is that they bring something fresh-sounding to a stagnant scene. They seem boundless by design and big on extracting the core triumvirate of soul, psych and blues. With a compelling live show already nailed on, if they stick to those three emotion-sparking keystones they will remain a beguiling act to follow.



Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2016/03/vodun-possession-riff-rock-records/
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