Review & Full Album Stream: Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

vokonis the sunken djinn

[Click play above to stream The Sunken Djinn by Vokonis in its entirety. Album is out this Friday, June 9, via Ripple Music.]

With their second album in as many years, Swedish riffers Vokonis answer crucial questions about the kind of band they will be. They make their debut on Ripple Music with The Sunken Djinn, which was recorded at Studio Underjord in Norrköping with Joona Hassinen, and in addition to the quick turnaround — they’ll be a prolific band, perhaps — the trio’s follow-up to 2016’s Ozium Records-issued Olde One Ascending (review here) finds them working consciously to refine their processes. That in itself is telling when it comes to what guitarist/vocalist Simon Ohlsson, bassist/backing vocalist Jonte Johansson and drummer Emil Larsson want to convey and accomplish as artists, and from the group’s beginnings in 2015 as Creedsmen Arise, whose demo, Temple (review here), came out through Btnk Cllctv, one can now better trace a creative trajectory on a course of which The Sunken Djinn is playing an essential part.

Comprised of seven songs brought to bear over a rumbling, riffing, and righteous 40 minutes, The Sunken Djinn strips down and focuses Vokonis‘ songwriting in a way that Olde One Ascending, in a year-later hindsight, began to do. The difference is that where the debut was more concerned ultimately with establishing their presence in a crowded underground and standing them out for the impact of their material, tonal heft and lumbering groove, pieces here like “Calling from the Core,” “Rapturous” and the highlight centerpiece “Blood Vortex” — only 4:49 long, but arguably the most effective hook included — build confidently on that foundation and move forward in a way that in all fairness can only be called progressive.

Of course, that’s not to say Vokonis have gone prog. They may get there yet, but to-date, their purpose remains keyed into crushing heavy riffs and nodding out beastmaster rhythms. This is signaled quickly on the opening title-track — also the longest inclusion at 6:51 (immediate points) — as “The Sunken Djinn” introduces itself via Ohlsson‘s dense tonal push and sets to work efficiently in making its way toward the first of The Sunken Djinn‘s several standout choruses. Ohlsson and Johansson have worked smoothly in arranging dual vocals since the latter joined the band prior to the release of Olde One Ascending, and as the opener unfolds to a midsection bridge and plotted solo, their dynamic remains a threat even though it never materializes and instead the band fluidly transition into “Calling from the Core.”

An airier, atmospheric start is met head-on with fervent chug backed by Larsson‘s creative cymbal-ism and with the vocals farther back in the mix, “Calling from the Core” would seem to live up to its name, even as the guitarist and bassist come together once again for the chorus, a particularly Sleep-derived turn of riff that leads to a cleaner-sung couple lines at the halfway point that are yet another answer to where Vokonis might be headed overall. That is, one doubts that will be the last non-shout vocals we’ll hear from them, and fair enough for how well they’re pulled off that first time and the second, which pulls away from lyrics in favor of topping a build at the end of the track with “oohs” that call Greenleaf to mind without sacrificing their own cacophony to do so. Two cuts in and Vokonis have already shown a range that will keep expanding with the lurch of “The Coldest Night.” A more patient, gradual introduction leads to nod-out chug and pummel for what’s arguably the purest onslaught throughout The Sunken Djinn, keeping heft as its root intention as it hammers its central riff into the listener’s skull, departing from it only for a solo in the second half and only to return with even more low-end fuzz fortification from Johansson to close out.

vokonis

Fading residual rumble brings the arrival of the speedier “Blood Vortex,” the most straightforward rocker Vokonis have composed to this point in their career and one well-constructed to make its point about the status of their craftsmanship. Its thrust, its shorter runtime and the fact that it doesn’t necessarily have to depart tonally from its surroundings in order to move at the pace it does make it a standout, and if one considers it an experiment in songwriting — strange to think of what’s basically a classically-structured headbanger as an outfit’s brazen departure moment, but context is everything — the no-nonsense shove and balance of hook and weight once again bode remarkably well for where Vokonis‘ direction might take them. Likewise the dive into feedback and noise that starts the subsequent “Architect of Despair,” a slower crawl of a riff unfurling with Ohlsson and Johansson‘s vocals beneath a winding line that seems to straighten out as it passes the midpoint of the 6:34 run, but proves less about getting to the chorus à la “Blood Vortex” or “The Sunken Djinn” than making the journey itself, which it does with a marked flow into “Rapturous.”

What might be considered the closer, “Rapturous” is a late reinforcement of what The Sunken Djinn has accomplished across its span, taking its time to properly introduce its riff in traditionally stonerized fashion before the vocals arrive, stomping through its verse en route to delivering the title-line as a memorable chorus in the spirit of the album’s landmarks and still offering some expansion of purposes in subtle flourish of guitar melody as even in making their way out, Vokonis can’t seem to resist showcasing a bit of their ongoing growth. That melody comes to further prominence in the song’s second half, and for a moment, it almost seems like they’ll symmetrically bring back the cleaner vocals of “Calling from the Core,” but they don’t actually get there, instead shifting into the three-minute noise outro “Maelstrom” and choose to cap The Sunken Djinn with the opposite kind of experiment as “Blood Vortex.”

By that I mean “Maelstrom” takes Vokonis almost entirely away from the notion of song structure — there is a drum pattern caked in effects, so some motion is provided — in favor of raw noise. It’s a decided and willful shift in approach that seems to set the other end of breadth to what the three-piece consider “fair game” within their approach. Less a highlight — less a “song” — within itself, its statement nonetheless comes through clearly, and it works to answer yet another question about who Vokonis are and can become as a unit. The Sunken Djinn, as final as the title might make it sound — as in, “it’s sunk” — captures Vokonis in medias res as regards their growth as a band, and with it, they share not just a progress update with their burgeoning audience, but a collection of songs that will further help establish them as one of the European underground’s strongest riff-led up and comers. The best of both worlds, then. One wonders if they’ll keep up the studio productivity going forward or shift into more time spent touring over the rest of 2017-2018, but either way, the notice they serve with their second album isn’t to be ignored.

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2 Responses to “Review & Full Album Stream: Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

  1. Blae T says:

    Thanks for posting this album! Don’t know how I missed this but what an album! Only problem is the lack of vinyl which will hopefully soon be rectified.

  2. Bud Lightning says:

    Smoke Weed Everyday!

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