Vaura is an interesting act for multiple reasons. Firstly it is the brainchild of four incredible musicians in Joshua Strawn of experimetal, dark pop explorers Azar Swan, Kevin Hufnagel of technical death metal beast Gorguts, Toby Driver of elusive post-everything act Kayo Dot and Charlie Schmid, previously of extreme avant-metallists Tombs. What is even more intriguing however is that Vaura is usually placed in the current wave of post-black metal acts, alongside the likes of Deafheaven and Bosse-de-Nage. Even though black metal is a core attribute of the act, it always seemed that they followed their own path and did not converge to many of the idioms of this scene.
The band’s debut record The Missing, released in 2013 showcased exactly that approach of detaching the harsh quality of black metal, while retaining the melancholic edge of the genre. The result was fantastic, as Vaura took their post-punk and new wave ideas a step further by coupling them with a more metallic edge. Their follow-up work Sables now arrives and finds them digging deeper towards this retro, ‘80s induced direction. Sables feels like the natural evolution of The Missing, with the band leaving behind the more extreme elements of their sound, augmenting their melodic core but also adding some new twists. As was the case with The Missing, Sables is driven by melody. The songs of the record feature a combination of fantastic lead work and stunning hooks. “The Lightless Ones” is a prime example of this dynamic, as the guitars produce direct and very pretty phrases, while the addictive chorus joins in to complete this deadly combination.
However, the biggest change here is the strategic move of Vaura towards the new wave aesthetics. Those were of course present in The Missing as well, but their role has been extended, with Vaura actually introducing their record with the most new wave way possible in “Espionage”, as the huge bass line arrives carrying the tonality of that era. Yet, Vaura does not focus only on the surface of that scene, and they actually travel down the rabbit hole to unearth some of its darker secrets. The spirit of darkwave and deathrock acts, in the likes of Fields of The Nephilim and Sisters of Mercy, lends its mysterious energy to Sables. This alchemical experiment has led to stunning tracks like “Eidolon”, a song baptized through darkwave sensibilities but given a modern representation in the vein of acts like The Chromatics, but with a more nightmare-ish, almost Lynch-ian touch.
Because black metal is absent for most of this record, apart from some nice ambient touches, Vaura has also moved towards a more experimental, no-wave direction. This is exposed early on with the opening track exploding into a dissonant recital with additional synths joining in and creating this violent wake-up call. But, there are times when such immediateness is not necessary, and Vaura take a more scenic route. The mysterious touch of “Zwischen” sees them using extended percussion and soothing synths to shift the whole ambiance away from their melodic identity and towards a bitter trajectory. Similar is the case with “Basilisk (The Infinite Corpse)”, where the band dives into an almost kosmische musik investigation, adding more sonic experimentation to complete the off-kilter nature of the track.
Sables is a record of evolution for Vaura. While The Missing introduced much of the musicians’ past investigations, Sables attempts to solidify the band’s vision. While Vaura explores the various sides of new wave, they are able to completely embrace those while making them their own. Vaura has put their own stamp on this great tradition, making themselves part of that lineage and possibly one of the bands to expand the genre further.
8.0 / 10
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