PICK OF THE WEEK: Vukari’s story of power and corruption hits home on powerful ‘Divination’

VukariI try to make plans when I can when it comes to this site. Since we don’t review every record that comes out each week (because that would kill me), a lot of planning goes into which records we pick to feature each week, and even more goes into what our pick of the week will be. This week was no exception, though as final preparation for the reviews you read that past few days approached, I quickly came to realize I had to scrap some of my plans.

The reason for that is late last week, when taking another listen to “Divination,” the great new record from Chicago-based black metal band Vukari, it quickly dawned on me that it was the best thing I was going to feature this week. This record slowly has grown on me and gotten into my bloodstream, and it was during a listen last week that I realized how much this record was affecting me. “Divination” is a concept album steeped in historical fiction based on a story centered on a patrician during Roman times who has a thirst for acquiring power. After he has dreams that seem to be speaking to him and reveal as powerful symbol that would drive his campaign, he begins to amass powerful followers. But as time goes on, reality and messages get distorted, and his followers ultimately are the ones who take the biggest fall. Oh shit, Donald Trump. Maybe Vukari are soothsayers. Kidding aside, it’s a gripping plot that the band pushes brilliantly on this eight-song, nearly 49-minute record.

Vukari coverVukari only have been together as a band for the past three years, and they already have two full-length efforts to show for that time, the first being their 2013 debut “Matriarch.” In the meantime, Bindrune Recordings has gotten behind the band—vocalist/guitarist/keyboard player Marek Cimochowicz, new guitarist Richard Stancato, bassist/keyboardist Spenser Morris (Vit), drummer Mike DeStefano—and they’ve been rewarded for their investment with this excellent, rich new record. “Divination” is filled with black metal grimness, atmospheric melody, and bloody drama that is the result of their central storyline, which, as sort of hinted at, may be seeped in history but is just as relevant today.

The dual “Divination” tracks start the record, the first more of an introductory with guitars reverberating and weird noise gusts, and the second part tearing the lid off the thing. The cut erupts, with Cimochowicz’s growls pummeling you, and the whole thing is flushed with melody. The song hulks into atmospheric pockets, with the passage feeling both savage and sorrowful at times, and a furious finish taking the song out. “Cursus Honorum” picks up on the momentum and unleashes a tidal wave of melody (come to think of it, that’s a common theme of this record), grim growls, and hammering playing. The riffs get ominous, with every element cascading hard, and a cold wash of air that takes over flows into a furious final few minutes built by wrenching cries and a noise haze. “Invictus Maneo” has a post-metal-style opening, with grim growls clenching, meanness pushing its way in, and the guitars swimming in the shadows. Later, foreboding sounds hang in the air and sting mightily, with a cloud of energy hovering overhead.

The second half of the record begins with the paired “Ad Delirium” tracks, with the first part of it sweltering in noise, with guitars bubbling up and echoing. The second portion has a chilling, solemn start, with gentle playing letting calmness flow, taking on sort of an ISIS feel. Then, the most energetic, and passionate guitar riff of the entire record blasts out, and the growls grind against everything standing in front of it. The track continues to be utterly infectious, sweeping you up in gazey fury and enormous power, standing as the high point on this record. “Sovereignty Through Extreme Tyranny” blasts out and mixes into catchy punishment, while shrieked vocals lacerate the skin, and a furious storm front lands. Another atmospheric stretch arrives, with calm and chaotic doing battle, and a huge burst tearing out of the back end bleeding into serenity. Closer “Bathe in Divine Light” begins with clean, cold guitars, making it feel like you’ll be let down gently, but it’s short lived. Gargantuan howls cut through like a sword, while gazey guitar fire catches, and the inferno builds from there. The guitars spread out over the track, with the intensity building, the band trudging hard, and guttural roars disappearing with the rest of the song into a pool of searing reverb.

The more I hear “Divination,” the more I am excited about the music itself and Vukari in general. The plot of the album is sobering and a little terrifying when placed against modern times, and the music builds expertly from the tale’s seeds being planted to the cataclysmic ending. This is one of a handful of really great, eye-opening black metal albums that have come out this year, and it’s well worth your time to immerse yourself in this body, mind, and spirit. And you might even get a step ahead of so many other people by actually learning a little something from history.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/vukari/

To buy the album, go here: https://thecollectivedistro.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://bindrunerecordings.com/