Vokonis – “Grasping Time” (The Sign Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Wow, like, totally immense! Having already graced the planet with 2 prior releases, this Swedish trio have pulled out all the stops on the aptly titled “Grasping Time” and man, have they taken the bull by the horns on this one. A year in making and with most of the time living and working together, this release might’ve been the last for drummer Emil, but boy, has he gone out on a high note. Richly blending the mellow grunge moments of Nirvana with the stoner intensity of High On Fire and the depressing doom of Conan, Vokonis themselves have progressed with the vocals now being shared between the hoarseness of guitarist Simon Ohlsson and the more melodic tones of bassist Jonte Johansson. Equally, the sound is balanced, allowing all the players to stretch their feet and manifest their abundant musical talents while keeping to the band’s style from their previous album ‘The Sunken Djinn’ in 2017. With the 8 tracks varying considerably in length from 1 1/2 to close to 10 minutes, I have to commend Vokonis on their composing in that whatever the duration, all the songs possess depth and captivating atmosphere, whether during intense periods or tranquil bliss, making this a truly special listen. Through its quiet guitar and hypno harmonies, ‘Sunless Hymnal’ may seem like a sleepy trip, but then the power kicks in with heavy riffs and raw guitar wails along with hard drumming from Emil although still interspersed with mellower moments until the crushing end of distorted doom bass from Simon that simply proves too much not to headbang to – wow! If that wasn’t enough, then the overwhelming bass couldn’t be a greater opposing force to the guitar work on ‘Embers’, itself an incredible contrast between Rush like ambience and chugging heaviness, and not forgetting Jonte and Simon trading off in the vocal dept between angelic soul and bestial savagery – definitely one of the album’s highlights, although there were certainly plenty of others. With one of those unforgettable guitar melodies and indeed plenty of fluid fretboard work from Simon on the title track ‘Grasping Time’, there’s a definite melancholic shoegaze meets grunge feel to this track especially in Jonte’s distant vocals, but the emotional reach is unforgettable despite some heavy moments featuring plenty of drum rolls from Emil adding power to the end. Having toured more has no doubt been instrumental in the evolution of Vokonis, from their new found strength in the studio to taking progressive steps forward in their sound which has worked really well here, so I can’t wait for this trio to further launch themselves into the stratosphere!