One thing I like about Japanese Metal in general is the fact that they’re not confined by the genre conventions that are common in the west. And although Volcano might not be as wildy eclectic as some of their fellow countrymen, their vicious, yet melodic mixture of Thrash Metal aggression, Death Metal intensity and guitar melodies strongly reminiscent of traditional Heavy and Power Metal would be considered too little of either by the standard European Metal audience. While in fact, the contrasting elements really bring out the best in each other, making their sophomore effort ‘Davi’ a lesson in mixing melody, aggression, groove and excellent songwriting.
Compared to Volcano’s Fredrik Nordström produced debut, ‘Davi’ sounds rawer and overall less “Swedish”. Nordström really highlighted the Gothenburg qualities of the band by placing the neoclassically inspired melodies that were guitarist She-ja’s trademark even when he was still in Gargoyle front and center. Though the melodic lead guitar is still omnipresent on ‘Davi’, the intensity is cranked up considerably, the guitar tone is much more abrasive and the compositions are generally a bit more “riffy” than on their debut. That’s probably why it makes my blood boil more than ‘Violent’, despite it being a great album in its own right.
‘Davi’ also shows a more courageous band in terms of exprimenting with other styles. It’s all Metal, it just doesn’t stick to the same subgenre for too long. ‘The Wild Obscene Nights’ is a sleazy track with Metal riffs, but a Rock ‘n’ Roll ethic that really shouldn’t have worked, but is one of the better tracks here. The highly melodic ‘Child Eyes’ really threw me off with the addition of the Hammond organ, while the shift from the intense, pulsating rhythms to the almost ballad-like verses in ‘No Way Man’ is a refreshing shift in the middle of the record.
However, I do prefer the band with the intensity turned all the way up. They have the riffs for it, they have one of the most powerful drummers in Japan in the shape of Gargoyle’s Katsuji Kirita and Nov’s raw, authentic voice just begs for the heavy stuff. Opening track ‘Absurd’ and ‘Progress’ both switch between the hyper-aggression of the riffs and rhythms on one side and the melodicism of the (twin) leads on the other. Closer ‘Barbwire’ basically destroys everything in its way and ‘History Cries’ is the perfect blend of aggression and melody, bringing to mind Artillery’s best work in the process.
In a time when stylistic conservativism seems to smother Thrash Metal, it’s good to have bands like Gargoyle and Volcano around to prove that it’s possible to stretch the boundaries of the genre without forsaking its essence. That essence – the unbridled aggression – is widely on display here, but decorated with just enough outside influences to account for a much more interesting listening experience. ‘Davi’ is Volcano’s creative peak and it’s definitely worth hearing if you want your blood to boil in a way that also puts a smile of melodic Metal euphoria on your face. It may become a disturbing grin to others, but you’ll be enjoying something really special by doing so.
Recommended tracks: ‘History Cries’, ‘Progress’, ‘Absurd’