Vaura’s frosty darkness blends into cold winds, damp storms on atmospheric, mysterious ‘Sables’

If there’s one annoying part of being a metal fan and having people around you know that, it’s that it’s always assumed that you don’t listen to any other music. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve had to yell, “I listen to other things!” when people bring up other forms of music, and my participation is waved off because what could I know about it? I don’t know. I was only a pop music critic for years and years.

I don’t know if the members of Vaura have experienced the same things. Among them, they count membership in bands including Gorguts, Dysrhythmia, Kayo Dot, and Tombs, yet their music here could not be any more opposed to what they do in their other camps. Especially on “Sables,” their new record and first in six years that totally corrodes away any hint of their metallic allegiances elsewhere. Yeah, the music is dark, but not in the same vein. The band exudes darkwave gothiness, a distinctly Euro-forged sound that makes me think back to my formative years listening to New Wave in the 1980s before metal really reached its way into my life. On these eight tracks, you get a rainy urban vibe, like watching the window get plastered on a gray, miserable afternoon, where this record works the best. Its members—vocalist/guitarist/synth player Josh Strawn, guitarist Kevin Hufnagel, bassist Toby Driver, and drummer Charlie Schmid—create ear worms that creep into your psyche and make you feel the damp chill. This also is a great-sounding record as it’s dynamic and pops with life even while projecting the heaviest of morose shadows.

The record cracks open with “Espionage” as beats snap, and a synth cloud develops overhead. “A fatal desire, a union of all that was separate and strange,” Strawn calls amid a cool solo with a silvery vibe and a dash of water that sends chills. “Zwischen” has sheets of synth and a mechanical mode that develops a strange aura. The music bubbles with panic sending cold jolts of nostalgia, and then the bass drives the song into a tunnel lit up by warm guitar leads. “Lightless Ones” has beats rattling, the keys spreading out, and the chorus here is really strong and sticks in your brain, as Strawn sings, “Zones of shadows turn to passageways.” It’s easy to have this one rolling in your mind for hours after you hear it. “The Ruins (Hymne)” has cosmic keys zapping and soaking guitars, with Strawn calling, “Can you feel the road that’s on the way?” I may have that line wrong, as I don’t have a lyric sheet. Anyhow, pits of sci-fi calm soothe in spots, while the track ends up in a mystic vapor.

“No Guardians” leads in with rock-solid drumming, a killer synth riff, and some acoustics sending breezes underneath the din. Strawn sings of “calling from the underground to remember who we are,” as guitars soar into the inky horizon. “Eidon” is a cold, but steady wind, an emotional song that has soloing ripping out and an overcast essence all the way. The guitars smear colors later on, and the simple chorus—the title repeated in rhythmic pattern—keeps your brain cells tingling while the story reaches its end. “Balisick (The Infinite Corpse)” has knocks tapping away, and a strange feeling is cast over all, while the track goes purposely robotic, with voices following suit. The track is murky and mysterious as fog develops, and your flesh is left cold and damp. The closing title track has an ominous sound, as Strawn sings that “the circular mirror never breaks.” Later on, the song lands some heavier punches, as the chorus rounds again, your BPM increases, and the track heads down the drain.

Anyone accusing the members of Vaura of not knowing what’s going on beyond their heavier bands are in for a rude awakening when they take on “Sables.” This third record sounds like the band finding its true footing and digging into the soil with full dedication and a fiery purpose. It doesn’t have to be raining and cold for this music to work, but it helps when the weather matches your and their inner turmoil that bubbles over the surface and crusts on the ground.

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