VOTUM are a progressive metal band hailing from Poland, whose fourth album, :KTONIK: is out February 26 through Inner Wound Recordings. I was first introduced to VOTUM’S music in 2013 with the stellar Harvest Moon. Think progressive rock/metal leaning into ambiance reminiscent of ANATHEMA’S Weather Systems, heavily textured and bred for listenability rather than technicality.
VOTUM takes that sound back into more solidly metal territory, evoking EVERGREY and a certain OPETH-ian sinister quality. Most songs are built on very rhythmic, repetitive earworms that ebb and flow in intensity throughout. The album is also impeccably structured, saving some of the best moments for the latter half with “Prometheus” and the instantly memorable “Vertical.”
New to the band on :KTONIK: is vocalist Bartosz Sobieraj, who steps in to replace the very talented Maciej Kosinski. I was worried about the future of the band when Kosinski announced his departure after Harvest Moon, being that his voice was one of the most impressive bits of that album, but Sobieraj has stepped up to the task and then some. His voice has a bit of a more aggressive tone and is a perfect fit for the darker, heavier direction the music has taken.
Showing their post-metal sensibilities, VOTUM arrives at their atmosphere, not with a deluge of technical wizardry or complexity, but with subtlety and careful attention to detail. Drum parts are impeccable, with some really engaging passages throughout. Most of the songs are slow or on the lower end of what would be mid-tempo, and it’s often quiet. While I would hesitate to say the album is influenced by doom metal, I would say there’s certainly similar sensibilities in how the songs are structured. Depending on your perspective, this makes for either a remarkably consistent, or painstakingly plodding experience, and I’m firmly in that first camp.
My favorite track on the album is the heaviest number, “Simulacra,” which opens with some overtly metal, and rather uptempo riffage, undercut with sinister interludes driven by the drums and vocals. This builds to a noisy and somewhat dissonant instrumental section that gives way to a remarkably peaceful sounding acoustic guitar passage with echo effects and backing vocals eery enough to invoke a comparison to STORM CORROSION. It then abruptly returns to a heavier passage setting up a set of ending screams from Kosinski that makes me wonder what sorts of instruments of torture the band brought into the vocal booth for that take.
Stylistically, :KTONIK: is a departure from much of what I loved about Harvest Moon, but what hasn’t changed is the excellence of songwriting and production that results in a piece of art with clarity of purpose and tremendous execution. If progressive metal leaning into a doom sort of atmosphere by way of post-metal sounds like something you’d enjoy, this is a superb effort.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Simulacra”, “Vertical”, “Satellite”