I admit, we do like bands that somehow navigate outside of the proverbial box. Those that will point their music to wherever their artistic urges take them. A journey that gets us to unexpected soundscapes that we did not hear often before. Or never at all.
So – in this light – it is not that we forgot about Karma Rassa and their 2018 record Vesna…Snova Vesna. The time just had to be right to get our juices flowing for such an eclectic Progressive Rock and Metal album.
The band already pretty much got on our good side with their earlier album Talks to Innerself. Now – in 2018 – they came forward with their new record, and it is a piece to behold.
And I daresay they took a pretty gutsy approach this time. Because they talk about – the weather. Well, kind of.
Sounds mundane, huh?
But stay with us a bit longer, so that we can get into this in a bit more intricate detail.
First, Vesna…Snova Vesna is all in Russian, which is – in itself – pretty courageous in this industry dominated by English lyrics and American antics. And this may make it a tad harder for them to break into the international market commercially, though. Second, they chose a typically Russian theme, which is the four seasons. Or the birth/rebirth cycle – if you want to be a bit more modern. In a way, it is a storyline that goes well with the proverbial Russian sentimentalism and melancholy.
To accommodate this, Karma Rassa opted for an airy style of soaring, yet strangely doom-ish clear vocals. A stellar mix of Alternative and Progressive Rock with some metallic parts woven into the fabric. Clear guitars, almost atmospheric in style. With ambient sounds floating into the tune from time to time, all perfectly timed and in line with the eventual sub-theme chosen.
As if this would not be enough of a relatively complex soundscape right there, all of a sudden pianos appear and flute sounds flutter by. With – sometimes – a saxophone solo added for good measure. All of that goodness weaves into an intricate pattern of melodies and sub-themes that you need to discover and digest first.
And this is when the Russian vocals really blossom in all their somewhat mellow splendor. This came as somewhat of a surprise to us. Usually, this language comes across as pretty rough and raspy, whereas here you’ll find the lyrics well ingrained into a pretty reflective overall flow.
Sometimes all that wafting about weather maps and snowstorms during seasons takes on slight early Tiamat-esque airs that I found refreshing. A style that meanders between the latter and the relatively complex offering of a Gentle Knife.
Also, and quite often we expect the mean djent monster to raise its ugly head, once we start on a prog record. Yet, Karma Rassa again went against ‘established rules’ and down their own path. Which is – by the way – something we already appreciated on their former record. In other words, you’ll find none of the usual shenanigans the biggies in this genre usually so potently display.
Indeed and apart from a somewhat monotonous and repetitious vocal delivery, the production is – by and large – outstanding. None of the overstuffed and overcompressed delivery other Progressive Rock and Metal outfits grace us with.
Vesna is a difficult album to review, but I’d rate Zima the best, most varied and most comprehensive track. Not that it stands out from its brethren like a sore thumb, but more for its intricate complexity and truly artful mix. Vesna…Snova Vesna – the title – follows as a close, a very close second. And in this light, you should best listen to the record as a whole. Kind of sit back, relax and let ‘er flow.
To conclude, Vesna…Snova Vesna is a truly courageous and eclectic piece of work. Them boys from St. Petersburg describe their theme with an astonishing musical flourish and a prowess that never gripes or disturbs. And out comes a true Progressive Rock and Metal piece that the RMR deck crew loved to twirl on our turntables.
So, for those who look for rock-hard metal, this will not be your tune. But fans with a taste for a really progressive, even alternative soundscape will find this latest album from Karma Rassa invigorating.