Vauva (which stands for "an infant") is a band with five years and a couple of self-published releases' worth of history. The group has made some (both good and bad) name due to their strong black metal -based aesthetics and for getting the renowned Christophe Szpajdel to craft them a logo - but of course, behind all the controversy there's the musical side as well. This is the band's newest release, and the only one that's currently available - and even this one is limited to mere 100 copies.
The album proves to take a while to digest. The songs go forward relying on their vocal melodies, but their actual body is built from pop rock-structures clashing together with some twists, turns and spices more akin to progressive rock and even metal. The songs might vary from heavy and almost aggressive shredding to really light and even cheery melodies, that might suddenly turn into polyrhythmic melodies and acoustic interludes. The lyrics ponder the themes of love, life, fears and existence overall, and when thinking about how vocal-based the music is, it shouldn't be a surprise that the album's overall feel balances between slight darkness and melancholic cheer. All the songs are easily told apart, and despite their their sometimes even amorphous variation they do have a logic behind them. The songs have a good amount of lighter and less easily audible seasoning, such as short acoustic riffs or choirs in the background, and they make the compositions more interesting while also helping them in preserving their appeal. It's clear that the band worked on the album for quite some time.
The spirit of indie surely is strong here, and sometimes I'm struck by the feeling that the band is trying to sound "difficult" on purpose instead of the less conventional solutions being a natural part of their style. Most often the songs take a turn for the better pretty much instantly as I start to get these thoughts, but it doesn't mean that they would appear without reason or justification. The band has got an ear for good and catchy melodies, but there are moments when the songs trip down face-first due to their twists entangling with each other, causing all the good elements to cause nothing but a dull mush - and the effect gets amplified by the plump bass guitar sound. The band is at their best when they get to calm down just a bit and focus on the detailed melodies supporting each other. I hope they understand to take it more to their advantage in the future, while of course working on how to make the rawer and more aggressive moments a natural part of their expression that would seamlessly come together with the lighter and more poppy moments.
Although the soundscape is very professional, which is no wonder as it was conjured by Tuomas Skopa who's gained a lot of name and experience in different indie-bands, it doesn't suit the songs perfectly. The bass-dominance eats the edge away from the heaviest moments while, at worst, also making the whole soundscape too damp and crowded. The heaviness doesn't feel natural, and especially since the album carries a tendency to switch to a lot lighter spheres as well, it makes the album sound unbalanced. I'm also a bit amazed by how much responsibility is given to the vocalist; his sound has some charisma and the lyrics deliver the desired thoughtful but disoriented feel, but he has way too much space in the mix. It's not that they would sound band, but they simply take over the instruments and thus make the songs less interesting and appealing. Those who enjoy pop in particular might find this a good thing, but I found it to be a disappointment.
Vauva is a highly promising band, but they still have a good amount of room to improve their strenghts. I hope that their next release will have a more unified sound and style, or at least a soundscape that does more justice to their music's different dimensions. This album is a bit too heavy experience, as it simply overwhelms the listener. Thumbs up for the album's simple but stylish visual side (all printed on recycled cardboard) as well as including all the lyrics.