The self-titled debut album from the Washington State-based project Vouna is a relatively simple, immersive album, yet it draws elements from a number of styles. The tempo and ragged synths are funeral doom, the melancholy tremolo and occasional blasting are black metal, the acoustic accompaniments are neofolk, and the vocals and song structures are a bit shoegaze. Vouna’s Yianna Bekris, who wrote, sang, and played all the instruments, paints effectively in a myriad of colors, but the brushwork has yet to resolve into a compelling whole.
The morose beginning of album opener “A Place to Rest” sounds a bit like Nortt’s blackened miserablism, but when the blastbeats enter just before the 2:00 mark, Vouna moves much closer to the spry shoegazing drive of Lotus Thief. It makes sense that this is being released on the label founded by Wolves in the Throne Room, as Vouna touches on many of the sounds and themes that have also defined that band. Similarly, much as Wolves in the Throne Room has often sounded like black metal in style but not in spirit, Vouna’s music sketches the main outlines of funeral doom but never actually commits to the style.
Each song of this relatively brief album sets a very nice scene, but none of them seem to be going anywhere in particular. “A Place to Rest” moves somewhat progressively across sections that build nicely on each other, but “Cattle” and “Last Dream” summon rich, beautiful sounds that simply lurch around until they stop. The flute and organ on “Drowning City” are a nice touch. The song on the whole feels like the most complete of the album, with a powerful crescendo and effectively repetitive coda.
Funeral doom’s template is quite a bit more malleable than its ostensible strictness would suggest, so there’s no faulting Vouna for taking useful bits of the genre and carrying them elsewhere. Bekris’s most evident skill is in finding the most economical means to convey the album’s many moods. Here’s to hoping that the future will see that skill deployed in service of an album with a sharper, more encompassing vision.