On their debut full length, Vodun redefine balls-out. I don’t know if that’s despite or because of being a majority woman band, but actually, come to think of it, I guess they just define balls-out, because it was a little vague what that expression meant in the first place. Am I having trouble making sense? There’s a reason why.
Whether or not you listen to as much metal as I do, Possession is the soul/jazz/death/rock album you’ve been waiting for. How do I know that? Because there are no other soul/jazz/death/rock albums.
Nothing else — nothing else — sounds like this. That alone already makes Possession as metal as a turbine-driven speaker system that makes alligator mating calls.
Putting gospel/soul influences into your singing is pretty uncommon in metal no matter how you do it, but the raw power, practiced skill and full-blast belief-in-what-she’s-doing that Vodun’s Oya puts into doing exactly that results in something that, against every right to expect, sounds unrelentingly heavy. No matter how much guitarist Marassa sweats jazz into the riffs or how much 60s proto-metal experimentation encrusts his melodies (here, far beyond the confines of revival doom where it usually belongs), he still plays like an animal through the whole record, and that animal is a heavy animal like an alligator, not a poser animal like a koala or something. Ogoun’s drumming finds ferocity in rhythms where musicians outside metal might only look for complexity, turning heavy what would only be loud if played without her well-honed ability. So yeah, maybe not every song is perfect. That’s what happens when you try things no one else has done before. And maybe the style bounces around a lot on the first side. But did you listen to side B? And did I mention “heavy?” Because even though it never gives up on the innovation, pretty much everything on side B just heavy as fuck.
Only, wait. There’s more. It’s not just that Vodun as an ensemble are remarkably talented and innovative musicians. It’s what they choose to do with that talent and innovation. And what they choose to do is be scary. Yeah, I know all of the songs are about a religion (voodoo, except this crew knows how to spell it right) that gets a reputation for being scary with people who know nothing about it, but this music is all sung from the perspective of a practitioner for whom these sacrifices and possessions and rituals and stuff are just part of their lives. It is, in a sense, religious music, and there’s nothing especially scary about that, especially since this religion isn’t just one they made up.
What’s scary about Possession? What really makes it so metal? It’s that music about being controlled has never sounded this out of control. Or to put it another way, they basically just lose their shit and go balls out for, like, pretty much the whole record. And Vodun do it in a way that, ironically, no one can really do unless they’ve bled vast reserves of time, work and discipline into getting really good at music. Not because of Vodun’s stylistic choices, but for this reason, the first thing I thought of when listening to their demo or EP or whatever it was about a year ago was this: Reign in Blood. A lot of metal is scary because it sounds like it might do something bad to you, but Reign in Blood was scary because, from start to finish, it sounded like something really terrible was about to happen on the record. Slayer sounded like if they made one slip, they’d all strangle on their guitar strings or run a drum stick up someone’s left nostril. But they didn’t slip. They rode the edge of musical disaster all the way through the recording, so close that it still has the excitement and the terror of a live performance every time you listen to it. That’s what made Reign in Blood breathtaking. I don’t know if a lot of bands can keep doing that for long. But I’ll tell you one thing. Vodun are still doing it, and the whole time you listen to Possession, you’re going to be reaching over your shoulder and between your legs wondering where the five point safety harness is. There are a lot of boundaries that Vodun charge straight towards on this album, and when they reach those boundaries, well, let’s just say they don’t have time to go around…
Get possessed on Soundcloud by clicking here (where there will be more links in case Possession is something you want to possess). If, on the other hand, you’re like me and you think this belongs on cream-pop colored vinyl, click here. And if you’re in the UK, go see them flip out.