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Vukovar – The Colossalist

by François Zappa

Things are never easy with Vukovar: mystery has always surrounded the band, although we managed to get some clues of who they are thanks to our interview with Phil Reynolds, who has worked again with the band, this time doing the mastering. Also, Vukovar has never made easy commercial music. Eight albums comprise their opus, from Emperor (2015) till The Colossalist, eight pieces of a very personal musical universe that has always surprised us, moved us and even frightened us. And life hasn’t been easy for Vukovar: one of their members, Simon Morris (also part of Ceramic Hobbs) committed suicide just one year ago and the last song of the album is a tribute to the late artist. But they have managed to overcome the tragedy and the band, with a new line-up called NeuPopAct has returned with a triptych (not trilogy) that starts with this The Colossalist.

In this new album, we find some experimental sound pieces mainly opening what should be hypothetically each side of the album (it has been released only on CD). “There Must Be More Heaven Than This” is the first of them: disturbing martial rhythms, a piano that appears and disappears, and some ghostly voices that can’t communicate among them welcome us in this track. Every album should start this way. “Here Come Lions”, is synthpop from another world, with an eerie feminine chorus, it feels like channelling a commercial station of a ghost world. The album continues with “The Higher Law”, a sinister interlude with keyboards in which it seems as if we were losing connection with the radio of the previous track. It works as a perfect introduction to the spectral “End of Life Delirium”, where voices and the most disturbing electronica intertwine during three incredible minutes. In “A Danse Macabre” the voice reminds me again of Bono’s, but a crepuscular and sincere Bono who sings over a repetitive, minimal and cold electronic background. “Vukovar (The Double Cross)” proves that a track can be unnerving and moving at the same tame. We have the feminine chorus again in one of the most heartfelt interpretations of the band in this song, one of the best moments of the album. 

The supposed B-Side starts with “The Dark Backward And Abysm Of Time”, another short piece with voices that seemt to be coming from a strange limbo. “Silent Envoy” with its dissonant and repetitive sounds is another probe of how to sound complex and minimal at the same time. “In A Year of 13 Moons” the martial rhythms are back with some cello and the catchiest chorus of the album. A piano guides us in the difficult paths of “I’m Becoming Yourself”, full of frightening noises that jump in our way as we run from the unearthly chorus. The Colossalist comes to an end with a peculiar cover of Galaxie 500 “Hearing Voices”, where we can hear some recording of Simon’s voice over the most optimist music of the record, something like Joy Division making honor to the first part of their name.

Although the album is full of great moments, I still keep their previous Cremator as my favorite, as for me it was one of the best records of 2019. But The Colossalist is a very interesting and complex work that will delight all of us who still don’t like easy things.

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