I have to admit that I am fairly flaky when it comes to my “favorite” bands list. Bands travel in and out of it all the time. One such band is Votum. They have long been a favorite band of mine, but I don’t get to write about them very often, so sometimes they disappear from that mental list, only to resurface later. Votum is back with their first album in almost five years, and it is called “Duhkha”, which means “grief” (I think). The album released on November 25th, much to my surprise.
Votum come to us from Poland. They have been reinventing themselves over the last 5+ years. Honestly, it has been a rough ride, at least from my perspective. After the exit of Maciej Kosinski on vocals, the band seemed to strive to change directions. Lyrics seemed to become more intense, too. Right now, the band consists of Bartosz Sobieraj on vocals, Adam Kaczmarek and – Piotr Lniany on guitars, Zbigniew Szatkowski on keyboards, Bartek Turkowski on bass, and Adam Lukaszek on drums.
When I say that it has been a “rough ride” for the band, I don’t mean that they suffered artistically. Their debut with Bartosz in 2016 was a dark, evocative take on the band’s earlier progressive rock sound, and I enjoyed it. The band, however, seems to be figuring things out still, including PR for their releases. The new album was released single by single over the last year or more, and then unceremoniously dropped as a full release. The album only has six songs, two of which are just different versions of the same song, and so this album is more of an EP at only 30 minutes in length. What I can say, though, is that the band’s output has definitely been to my liking, and so this short album is rather good. Really good, in fact.
The band is certainly evolving. They used to play a dark progressive rock akin to other Polish bands, but they have ventured deeply into progressive metal with a heavy electronic and ambient tone. This release gorges itself on that sound, in fact, with monstrous riffs, stabbing electronic accents, and truly amazing song structures that keep you guessing.
I must also mention that Bartosz’s vocals have improved dramatically. On 2016’s “:Ktonik:”, I felt that he struggled with English pronunciations and grammar to some extent. That is mostly gone now, though his accent remains, which I really like. Maciej was a precise and wordy singer, and Bartosz leans more towards highly emotional, drawn out, minimalistic melodies, and I’m still getting used to that big change. However, on this release, I felt my emotions being released many times as my heart rose with Bartosz’s cries of sorrow and turmoil. I’m really excited about the singer he is becoming.
Like I said, “Duhkha” is about 30 minutes long, but it’s the kind of record you will want to hear again immediately. The album opens with “Prey” with Anneke van Giersbergen guesting on vocals. It is a lumbering, slippery song with a fantastic electronic overlay and huge chorus. It checks all my boxes, and Bartosz’s voice sounds great mixed with Anneke’s, especially as the song launches itself into the stratosphere. This song is also found later on the album, minus Anneke. I like both versions, but they aren’t all that different.
The remaining songs are “Lamb of Cyber God”, “Void”, “One of Them”, and “Hate”. As you can probably tell from the song titles, this album revolves primarily around social media and our penchant towards anonymous hate towards others therein. Cyber bullying, severed relationships, and destructive language are only the tip of the iceberg here. It’s an unsettling and even convicting album, to be sure.
“Lamb of Cyber God” is one of my favorites, maybe even of the year. Its subtle, eerie opening soon transitions into a riffy and hefty song with one hell of a chorus. I love it. “Void” has some of the heaviest guitar portions on the album, including a sweet instrumental with guitars and electronica jamming hard together. It deserves to be cranked high on your stereo.
“One of Them” has a nice, searing vibe that hangs throughout its runtime. I think Bartosz’s best performance might be on this song, as he holds some stunning notes near the end. Lastly, we get “Hate”, a song that I’ve loved ever since they released the video over a year ago. This song has lyrics that are difficult to process. In fact, I don’t play it in front of my kids because they will not understand the pointed examples of online hate. What a song it is, though. It is really low-key, and the chorus is ambient and emotional. I love every second.
“Duhkha” sees Votum completing their evolution into a different band, and I love the sound they have created. I hope that, despite the difficulty in reaching fans on social media (especially Facebook), the band has more for us soon. This album is meant to be the first of a trilogy, it seems, and so I am ready to dive in again. I hope the band can garner new fans from this great material.
Find Votum online: