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Vulkan - Mask of Air CD (album) cover

MASK OF AIR

Vulkan

Heavy Prog


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siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars VULKAN started all the way back in 2006 under the moniker Morgeous Garvin under which they completed a few recordings and kept until 2011 when the band decided to up the intensity level of the music and changed its name to VULKAN. The band was formed in Karlstad, Sweden and the first lineup of VULKAN was David Engström (keyboards, effects), Mag Munson (guitars), Jimmy Bob Lindblad (vocals), Johan Norbäck / drums) and Vincent Andrén (bass) with only Lindblad and Norbäck existing up to the present day.

Upon changing its name to VULKAN the band immediately changed its classic retro prog sound to include more heavy guitar heft and released its first album MASK OF AIR the same year of formation. This debut featured more of a classic prog sound laced with heavy rock often bordering on metal and for a few brief moments actually could qualify but for the most part MASK OF AIR is dedicated to the lengthy emotive prog tracks that intertwine spaced out atmospheres with stellar guitar, bass and drum rhythmic drive. One of the highlights of VULKAN's sound is the expressive vocals of lead single Jimmy Lindblad whose style gives an extra layer of emotive connection to the musical accompaniment.

It's not really clear who VULKAN sounds like. It's clearly a style of retro prog that implements a dash of King Crimson at their heaviest with Floydian space rock along with some of the symphonic prog styles of the 90s, perhaps the Flower Kings or similar acts but to my ears VULKAN stands out by existing somewhere in between all of these bands, borrowing elements from all but piecing it all together in a unique way. The tunes are melodic and multi-vocal harmonies are employed at key moments for extra emphasis on the melodic constructs which dominate the sonicscapes.

MASK OF AIR is a lengthy best sprawling on to almost the 77 minute mark and in its wake it leaves 10 tracks many of which are over 8 minutes and only a three that are below six. This is the type of prog you can get lost in. Tender lyrical deliveries offer a sense of melancholy only punctuated by an angsty heft that randomly generates the contrast in the form of bombast. VULKAN reminds me of alternative Wobbler in many regards only with less focus on the symphonic aspects and more on the guitar, bass and drum triumvirate that supports the dominant vocal style. Faux flute sounds also occur now and again and the album mainly simmers on mid-tempo rhythmic drives rather than turning up the heat.

VULKAN's debut is an interesting example of highly emotive psychedelic prog with a heavier edge. The mellotron sounds add a serious dose of retro dynamism whereas the heavier guitar sequences evoke a more contemporary stance. The album's melodies are instantly addictive but implement some interesting chord progressions to offer that in-the-prog-zone-4-sure feel. MASK OF AIR is a strong debut and would be followed by "Observants" in 2016 which got the band on the Pain of Salvation tour in 2018. While the band has shifted to an even more eccentric style of playing on their newer material, this more laid back traditional style of space rock and heavy prog is quite a pleasant listen and one that could become quite addictive on subsequent listens and offers the sweet satisfaction of a Porcupine Tree album.

Report this review (#2448512)
Posted Thursday, September 17, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars How this album is not among the best releases of the last ten years is beyond my understanding. This is heaven for any fan of challenging, adventurous prog rock with metal touches (without being prog metal). To me it is like a twin brother of De-loused in the comatorium by The Mars Volta, We have the same sense of experimentation, sound effects, intensity and even the vocals ressemble Cedric Bixler-Zavala. But Vulkan is not a clone band by any means, what we have here is a very original album. Do yourself a favour and go listen to it, you won't be dissapointed.
Report this review (#2480661)
Posted Saturday, November 28, 2020 | Review Permalink

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