Jan-Simon : What is going on in Sweden? Is it really because of the long cold winters in which it hardly gets light that more great bands hail from Sweden than there are actually Swedes? Or do they put something in the drinking water - or the aquavit?
The latest proof of Swedish musical genius comes from Borlänge, a provincial town in central Sweden, in size comparable to the Dutch city of Sneek. There is nothing wrong with Sneek, but how many bands from Sneek do you know? And should you be able to come up with even one, it most certainly has no worldwide record deal. Not so in Borlänge. Already the hometown of guitarbands Mando Diao, Sator and most prominently Dozer, now VAKA can be added to the list of internationally known bands from Borlänge.
VAKA is not really a band, it is more a solo project by Karl Daniel Lidén, until recently drummer for Dozer and now mainly active as engineer / mixer (he did Dozer's latest cd for instance). 'Kappa Delta Phi' his debut album is called and despite the title it has nothing to do with American students' societies. The average American college-jock will probably not understand much from the original mix of post-metal (the fashionable metal genre of the moment) and sixties/seventies rock and doom. Shaking his head in disbelief he will put the cd aside - or throw it out of the window, but hey… this music was never meant for him anyway. The complex tracks that feature drums and keyboards will most certainly be of everybody's taste, but have patience and you will hear post-metal as it is meant. Not the umpteenth Neurosis-clone, but really music that goes one step beyond metal. And isn't that precisely what post-metal is or should be all about? Lidén invited guitarists to play along, his mate Tommi Holappa of Dozer for instance, but this is not a guitar-dominated album. Very heavy drumming, lots of mellotron and an eclectic collection of analogue keyboards drive the sound. "Kappa Delta Phi” casually proves that you do not need lots of distorted guitars for a heavy album. Years ago there was Cop Shoot Cop who were heavy with two basses and no guitar, now we have VAKA. So it can be done like this as well. For the first time in ages avant-garde metal (different metal, post metal, you say potato, I say potato) that can actually be enjoyed.
Of course Lidén did the production and engineering himself. He could not have created a better businesscard for his day-job: 'Kappa Delta Phi' (still not the faintest clue what it means) sounds fantastic. The whizz of the mellotron and banging drums are a happening in themselves, but they are used in strong tracks that for one moment sound like Mastodon with synthesizers and the next moment as a metal-version of Sisters of Mercy. Doom meets sludge meets new wave. But just a bit different. One thing is certain, this album grips you and won't let go until it is finished.
Normally I take the information provided by the record companies very much for granted, but in the case of VAKA I have no doubt it is true: "perhaps one of the strongest debuts of the genre...". "And one of the best records of 2009, already,” I add. If I could only think what genre VAKA exactly plays…