Great, a band from Poland! Votum was formed in 2003 and has been busy ever since playing the club circuit of Warsaw. A single, “Jesteem,” came out in 2006. Now we have the first album, Time Must Have A Stop (Prog Rock Records 2008).
I’m not entirely sure what the title means, but the album itself gives me plenty to write about. Firstly, you would never know that this band's first language is Polish. Secondly, their own slant on atmospheric progressive metal shows great promise and points towards a bright, or should I say dark future.
Votum’s defining moment seems to have come in September 2006 when line-up changes and a change in direction occurred. What they have worked on since has resulted in this impressive debut album. Moving towards a more progressive metal sound, they have worked hard on creating an album with a tangible atmosphere and engaging lyrics.
This is underlined by the accompanying publicity material, which quotes the band as saying, “Our main concern is not any particular style of music but the atmosphere pouring out of it”. There we have this album’s greatest achievement. The atmosphere does pour forth in torrents of darkness, interjected with memorable glimpses of light.
Time Must Have A Stop creates a near sinister backdrop of eclectic styles and unexpected switching. It hits most of those ambitious targets and, for a debut, sounds accomplished.
The story opens with “Me In The Dark”. Gentle acoustic and immediately engaging lyrics work its compulsive spell from the off. When the band powers in, you set off on a trip through some pretty dark territory.
The band tells me this is a story of “a madman turning his vision into reality, a crippled soul who has found a way to release his urge, a woman effected by his horrendous art…becoming his unwilling companion”.
The atmosphere is painted ever darker when they add, “this is a story of obsessive craving to be loved, of perverse affection that leaves them both physically and emotionally scarred and heads deep into gloomy spaces of their minds”. Interested? You bet. So do they deliver?
Votum has definitely scored with their desire to create atmosphere. The idea, or dare I say concept, would fall horribly flat if they failed in any way to create labyrinths of darkness within their music. “The Pun” maintains the sense of intrigue as it unfolds. Next, though, comes a whole slice of the album that really impressed me.
The magnificent, eastern coloured, and menacing “Passing Scars” leads to another triumph, “Train Back Home”. Any band that can create such a huge, sweeping, infectious, prog metal backdrop as this, and make it work so atmospherically, deserves to be noted. Both “Passing Scars” and “Train Back Home” work on every level and whet the appetite for future releases from this band.
I overuse the word haunting, but this most definitely is. Follow it, feel it, and fear its message. Whilst I’m on the subject of messages, what does Votum actually mean? Well apparently it means another form of prayer in which someone undertakes to offer a sacrifice to a divinity.
Another winner, “The Hunt Is On”, builds layer upon layer, as you are taken deeper into the story. Votum manages to combine power metal with some passages of sublime melody. They have a highly effective use of light and dark textures with shades of Opeth’s mastery having been taken on board.
“Away” shows a remarkable confidence and is literally awash with the promised atmosphere. Beautiful piano melody provides a platform for Maciej Kosinski’s vocals, which are excellent throughout the album. He is powerful whilst not getting overtly in your face, and tells the story as if it was his first language. The twin guitars provide the passion and the keys the colour.
“Look At Me Now” powers in, startling you out of whatever place you're in. Death growls briefly appear, but are set above a multi-surfaced maze of sound. Votum shifts and switches, whilst underpinning it all with some dynamic and often unexpected moves. The east reappears during “Look At Me Now” and “Time Must Have A Stop” to excellent effect.
The album ends with the title track. Again opening with piano, it moves on to create another hall of mirrors. This is a track of strength, subtlety, and intrigue.
Votum clearly has other journeys to take us on and many avenues to venture down. With this album they have shown they have the class and ideas to do just that. With the desired atmosphere pouring from it, they have achieved and surpassed their original ambition.