WE REVIEW THE NEW ALBUM FROM VUKOVAR – THE BODY ABDICATOR
Latest album release from neo-goth rock band Vukovar combines modern post-punk and industrial with 80s gothic rock and even pop-rock influences to create a soundscape that totally immerses its listener into its despondent yet cathartic darkness.
Described by the band as their “final step in their obsessive memorial to Sam Morris” who was their late collaborator and experimental musician who tragically passed in December 2019, “The Body Abdicator” certainly embodies this statement. With the reoccurring use of repetitive lyricism and hauntingly hypnotic instrumental passages “The Body Abdicator” has a sense of nervous urgency to it as well as a chant-like quality at times. However, alongside this “The Body Abdicator” feels totally unrestrained as if it is finally fully releasing its emotions and freeing itself from the shackles of grief. Uninhibited, yelping vocals and chaotic song structures with a dark and sombre atmosphere with sporadic moments of melody and light bursting from them give a sense of cathartic relief.
Beginning with the occult yet upbeat number “Little Deaths/Little Lights” Vukovar’s classic gothic style comes across in the lyricism alluding to death and religion describing a chapel and visions of angels. With the haunting and tender yet ghostly reverb vocals of Chilean artist Gea Philes delivering a spoken word monologue at the beginning of the track and then performing echoing vocal harmonies throughout the rest of the track and again on the more sombre second track of the album “Emptying Tide – From an Occult Diary”, there’s a surrealist touch to the album that this emphasises from the beginning. With a more modern influence coming through on the industrial rock and post-punk genre influences on the album sounding inspired by earlier work of bands such as Daughters “The Body Abdicator” is strange, alien and future facing in the best ways. These qualities mean that it will surely be cited as a source of inspiration for future alternative rock projects.
Despite its uncanny and anomalous approach, a lot of the highlights on “The Body Abdicator” are evocative of the best of popular 80s gothic rock and synth-pop such as The Cure or New Order and just as catchy and groovy. Still carrying their unique, occult flare tracks such as “Little Deaths/Little Lights” and “Place To Rest” in particular are less funeral and more 80s themed disco. Nevertheless, Vukovar seems to harbour the gift of somehow merging those two oppositions together and making it sound brilliant. Blending the despondent with the euphoric and the past with the future, Vukovar creates an album that will remain timeless and utterly curious for every listener through the future ages. This is a display of true artistic talent.
This being said, there are moments of complete darkness. A track that particularly stands out in this sense is “Throughstreams”, a completely disconsolate number with a repetitive structure and gloomy instrumental as tortured vocals cry out into the emptiness the words “destroy yourself /whatever comes next will be better”. The reoccurring and repetitive structure of the track only adds to its misery emphasising the feelings of complete powerlessness. Another dark but extremely beautiful track is “Who Is The One Who Is Living Me Now?” a song that begins sounding church hymn-like with its echoing organ sound and slowly descends into chaos with jumbled vocals and harsh, piercing noise ending with the fading out of what sounds like a motor-engine. There’s a stirring desperation to the shamelessly unhinged nature of both these tracks that is uncomfortable yet unforgettable.
With excellent and thoughtful production “The Body Abdicator” is an album that you hear something new in every time you listen to it. As each track unfolds it tells a story through the subtle adding of different sounds to its instrumental palette, often evoking feelings of both tension and release within minutes. Theatrical at times, particularly on the exaggeratedly creepy and gothic track “This Will Absolve Me”, Vukovar never shy from shocking the listener and in doing so create something truly memorable and gripping. In creating their musical memorial, they have not only succeeded their goal of creating a striking testament to Sam Morris but a testament to their visionary and unique musical world.