Felix Jen – 10 May 2021
VOLA, a Denmark-based progressive rock quartet, released their new Single/Mini-Album, 24 Light Years, on March 11, 2021. First off, it feels a little bit weird to talk about a “Single” release, which contains three songs. For fear of post not aging well, these tracks are also incorporated into VOLA’s upcoming studio album, Witness, releasing on May 21, 2020. However, since I’m writing this before that album drops, I have to evaluate the 24 Light-Years discography in isolation.
24 Light-Years is a beautiful compilation of three tracks that showcase the VOLA’s range from both the softer milder side of progressive metal, in its title track, to the more brutal and hard hitting, in Head Mounted Sideways. Developed1 as a follow-up to VOLA’s 2018 studio album, The Applause of a Distant Crowd, VOLA explores once again the subject of painful disconnect—this time, not just interpersonal but gradious societal disconnect as well.
Covered in a cool blue light, 24 Light-Years presents the mellow and soft side of rock. Depicting a lone explorer in the ocean depths and the dark reaches of space, we’re greeted with ethereal vocals lamenting the isolation of journey. Instead of the gritty bass guitar, 24 Light-Years takes a more electronica focus with spacey synths and drum kit hi-hats leading paving the way.
The second track, Straight Lines, is a return to the hard progressive metal and a stark contrast to the 24 Light-Years. While still melodic on its face, it replaces the electra notes of the title track with the growl of a bass guitar. Straight Lines is, at its core, a lamentation of the sudden twists and turns we, both individually and as a society have faced, from our lives as straight lines to a tumultuous web of events—”You’re running low on straight lines / You’re running low on good signs.” Yet, the message is not one of despair, but of repair and restoration—not to forget the times but to rise up and challenge them. “Pine tree hill, hold me tight / . . . / but save the blister.”
Head Mounted Sideways is the darkest track in VOLA’s new mini album, calling on a change to the shadowy nature of our modern society. Not shying away from the “cyberocratic” advancement of modern life dominated by the digitla organizations that our day-to-day depend on—”Wounds appearing underneath the skin we killed / Head mounted sideways to shun the guilt”—Head Mount Sideways depicts a resistance against the instutitions forced upon. The song, on the hand, recognizes that such change is inherently painful and uncomfortable. “Bring back my bed / . . . / Replay my talkshow game.” We rarely see a song take a nuanced view on the modern cyber society and this song does an admirable job, both in its critique on nature of our lives as well as the consequences of trying to break out of the that mold.
If the 24 Light-Years mini collection is anything to go by, VOLA’s Witness album will be a stunning commentary on the annals of the world today and in the future. It’ll be interesting to see what VOLA has in store this time.
Witness is the main album being referred to, but 24 Light-Years is the limited proxy we have at the moment, aside from the 4th additional track exclusive to Witness, not present on the mini-Single album. [Back]