Volka are ready to go big. The Equate EP is a massive statement of intent. The songs are well crafted, well played, and well produced. What more can you ask for? I caught the boys live on 5th May. Intertwining the new EP with their Edinburgh single Launch of Choke – let’s get straight into it.
From the get go, a blistering opening riff in “Strong” sets a tone reminiscent of a Foo Fighters guitar sound but with more grit provided by Tam’s husky Scottish voice. Big pre-chorus drops bring the song to life as the band moves through gears with ease. Dropping onto the floor tom for the groove is a nice choice from Euan Sked, drummer and certified heavy hitter, because it leaves a space for the two guitarists Calum More and Steven Dunsmore respectively. At the Single launch for “Choke” I had to ask the bar staff for ear plugs to enjoy the full sound. While this may deter some, the purpose of bands like Volka is to blast power from the stage. These guys are loud, listener discretion is advised.
Before the distortion drone has completely left your head, “Settle”, the second track of the EP is already full steam ahead and my head is nodding along to the driving bassline of Callum Sked. His presence onstage in Banshee’s Labyrinth is impressive, as is his intuition with his younger brother on the drums behind him; he seldom needs to turn around to make eye contact, their connection is inherent and a joy to watch. That being said, “Settle” is a perfect opportunity for the listener to experience the partnership between More and Dunsmore. Their distinctive guitar styles overlap in a way that shouldn’t work conventionally but does with great effect in this song. The recording allows the listener to breach the wall of sound from the live setting to fully hear what’s going on. Credit is due to Bruce Rintoul, working in Bridgeton, Glasgow, for unpicking the seams between an aural blanket of guitars.
“Choke” was the standout song at the live show back in May. Thomas Fraser (Tam’s) vocal line is the focal point of the song, with the other instruments falling in line to support his lyrics. The chorus, “Time is the anti-dote, we’re trying not to choke,” constricts my throat physically every time I hear it. Tam’s voice personifies the words in an inexplicable way that puts me on edge, which was his exact intention I’m sure.
In contrast, “Listen” is a welcome recession of intensity to allow a nice melody from both guitars and vocals to come forth. All good bands should be able to play soft and hard, regardless of genre. Accomplishing this with track four of The EP; a more classic sound is employed from the guitarists, bring the listener back to the 70s almost with glistening verses and a punchy chorus. The band at no point have a retro feel, but the choices of guitar effects create a sound found in previous generations of rock music in “Listen” specifically, which is worth listening out for. “Lower”, the following track continues this idea quite smoothly until we are slapped by a Simon Neil-esque dirty strat sound in the chorus, giving a more technical feel to the EP. The stark contrast within the song pulls the listener back out of a thoughtful slump and is a guaranteed body mover in the live setting. “Lower” also heralds Tam’s best vocal performance to date in any recording to date, something which can be a real challenge in small basement style gigs with the previously mentioned wall of sound. Chilling reverb on-top of the dirty staccato between the two guitars again demonstrate the perhaps unsung heroes of the band’s melodic capabilities, due to the heavy nature of the vast majority of their music.
Finally, the self-titled “Equate” is the perfect finale to a massive EP. Grit is one of the predominant themes throughout the tracks and can be heard cutting through in the bassline which stands on a pedestal in the mix for good reason. The drums also deserve an honourable mention, Euan manages to stay heavy without getting boring which is not ubiquitous to say the least among his contemporaries in similar genres. His fills are full of dexterity without compromising the songs and lead the band into deafening drops which have caused audiences to mosh without fail for years. The band have made an excellent choice in terms of recording and have struck a successful chord it seems in the east end of Glasgow with Rintoul. With a great live show in Edinburgh, and great songs in the EP, the only way is up for Volka, don’t miss the chance to catch them live. Like them on Facebook to stay in the loop.