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Vodun - 'Ascend' Album Review


1. Spirits Past

2. Started From

3. Providence Of Ancestors

4. Ogun's Fight

5. Time Honoured

6. New Doom

7. Elusive Freedom

8. Ascend

9. Rituals

10. For Your Kin

11. Spirits Past (Single Version)

The best way to describe London based Vodun is that they’re a tribe that marches to their own beat. A three piece, they blend elements of various different musical genres to achieve their vision, a cultural blend of influences that go beyond music. The band are more than just the sum of their collective influences and on “Ascend”, their second album, they prove that they have so much that they want to pass on to their listeners.

The album opens with the raucous ‘Spirits Past’, a song that rips along at great pace and sets up the album’s manifesto perfectly. Why manifesto? Because that’s exactly what it is. The album has a rich vein of social political commentary running through it which is constantly tapped into for the album’s lyrics which are referenced throughout. It drops you right into the fight immediately, the frantic drums, percussion and guitar drive the song at a pace that cracks along, even breaking down into a Speed Metal breakdown part way through the song. Then there’s Oya’s vocals, confident and yet soulful, strong but yet tender. She draws from a place with the vocals of the recently departed soul queen Areatha Franklin can happily mix with the world weary tones and phrasing of Patsy Cline and the criminally overlooked 'Skin' from Skunk Anansie. She sings with confidence and truth, allowing the words to have an authenticity to them. You know that the band are tapping straight into their collective histories while rallying the listener.

Oya’s vocals might be the river in which the songs flow but it really wouldn’t be possible without her companions in the band. The Marassa peals off heavy riffs and leads from his guitar like he’s conducting lightning though his soul. He throws down chunky, heavy as hell riffs like the the god of thunder. ‘Started From’ is thick and slinky, the next song ‘Providence Of Ancestors’ is a throw back to the old Thrash scene of the eighties. His use of guitar is precise and controlled; their is no excess here. Everything is trimmed down to its bare essentials guitar wise. Whereas the likes of Tom Morello descend into flamboyant solos and gimmick sounds, this is channelled rage distilled into the purest essence of guitar. Then there’s Ogun, the band’s drummer and spine that everything is pinned to. ‘Ogun’s Fight’ is the perfect example of this. One minute it’s relatively standard Rock drums carrying the rhythm then she’s adding extra percussion and polyrhythms over the top, adding extra colour and flavour when it’s needed.

Just when you think it’s all relatively heavy, they’ll quickly throw in something softer and gentler. Take ‘Elusive Freedom’, where the rhythm changes every few moments. At one moment it’s gentle, almost dub like, then they’ll change it into something faster, like the rhythm section from Bad Brains have suddenly started covering the song before adding a steady (but heavy) groove for the chorus. It’s things like this that helps keep the album sounding fresh and challenging to the ear. ‘For Your Kin’ draws you in with it’s hypnotic grooves and soft vocals, as Oya spins another tale of ancestry, another common thread running through the album. I would mention specifics around the lyrics but it’s like the old tradition of sitting listening to a tribe’s storyteller or shaman, how our history is passed on in this traditional manner. You need to listen to what is being passed onto you. It’s the tales of our shared history, how we are all connected to this common thread, no matter who you are or where you’re from.

Vodun are a real interesting listen and with this they provide the listener much to think about. Personally, I can keep listening to it and it will reveal something else to me. On the first listen I was reminded musically of Soulfly, the second time it was Killing Joke and the third was a mix of Living Colour, 24-7 Spyz and Fishbone. You never know quite what you’ll get, even on repeated listens. Each time there’s something new for you to pick up and focus on. Do yourself a favour a delve into the musical maelstrom that is Vodun.

Review - Scott Hamilton

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