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Veldes - Skyward review

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From Bled, a tiny mountain town in northwestern Slovenia, comes the moody depressive solo BM act Veldes which at this time of review has just two releases to its name. I've been hearing "Skyward" a few days now and I'm impressed with how Veldes main man Tilen Simon has approached making this recording, even though parts of it don't always communicate fully what he tries to say. From start to finish, I can hear there's a very clear over-riding concept and a narrative combining nature, change and a range of emotions running from regret through anger and wistfulness to resignation running through the EP. There is singing that makes the message clearer but the music by itself conveys emotion and mood well. Simon has an ear for melodies and riffs that are at once beautiful and distinctive, and which carry drama and feeling well.

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The opening and closing tracks are all-acoustic pieces in which strings (viola, cello) provide the general backdrop to raindrop piano tones and what appears to be a tinkly celeste (a keyboard instrument similar to piano) comes in as icing on the cake. "Skyward" (the track) creates the general mood in which the listener is to receive the EP's message. When the EP proper begins, it comes in as smoothly as it can manage, given that the music aspires to epic grandeur and sharp aggression. And majestic and aggressive Veldes certainly can be: the bass is deep and the guitars are steely in tone with slight distortion. The celeste motif from the opening title piece continues over into "Woe Eater" while black metal guitars slash away in support. While this track is good, it does suffer a little in sound: the (synth-generated) drums are too feather-light for the style of music Veldes aims to create and need to be more powerful and thunderous; and the vocal needs to be more varied in its delivery - a greater emotional range is needed and the odd scream would be welcome. The acoustic keyboards could also be a little sharper and less smooth in tone to bring out the melancholy.

"Of Rain and Moss" borrows inspiration from black metal and doom metal and the drum-beats suggest a bit of death metal influence. The track can be repetitive but the atmosphere is more important: it carries a strong sense of tragedy as well as grandeur. The best part comes past the halfway mark when the rhythm section leaves off and listeners are treated to doomy riffs resounding over and over with piano accompaniment. The guitar tone is stern and forbidding with just the slightest bit of distortion in parts. A deep sense of sadness, perhaps regret at what has gone and can never return or be reclaimed, is present.

The recording does succeed in establishing an inner world in which humanity's loss of contact with the natural world and a sense of how enormous that loss is, constitute the EP's message. It does falter a bit in its second half when it starts to rely on repetition to drive its message home and for a few moments I did think the music was losing focus and direction. The fact that the percussion is not as strong as it could be, resulting in music that's not very energetic and powerful, could have something to do with the recording sagging in the most important track "Of Rain and Moss". Taken as a whole though, "Skyward" (the whole EP) is a very emotionally moving effort even with all its imperfections.

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