VOJD - The Outer Ocean

VOJD The Outer Ocean cover
The Outer Ocean
High Roller Records
“Rockular” acronym or initialism notwithstanding, Stockholm’s VOJD should readily appeal to fans of brash yet wistful Swedish traditional heavy metal, which often meanders into equally ravenous instances of retro-rock revelry where down-to-Earth and concise, tuneful lyrics/vocals over searingly refined, mint blues solos built around melodically bumptious mid-tempo, oft fulminating, rhythms are the order of the day... and night, in (dark) light of the seminal quartet’s original incarnation, Black Trip, whose compositions and thematic overtones decidedly took on much more of an undisguised, not to mention “occultic” turn.
Earlier this year, in addition to briefly following an obscure, limited edition 7" vinyl tribute to Motörhead/Deadheads split and surely optional single (humdrum A-side “Behind the Frame” w/ crafty “Funeral Empire” B-side), Black Trip front man (not to mention founding Enforcer member/bassist) Joseph Tholl and his lowdown, genial minions churned out VOJD’s wholly unanticipated full-length debut, “The Outer Ocean”, on CD and 12" vinyl (limited to a thousand copies, half of which come in electric blue translucence) under the token, albeit highly reputable, High Roller Records, and even though it feels significantly less concordant, organized or cogent as BT’s respective “Going Under” (2013) and mildly superior “Shadowline” (2015), the good news is it still has its memorable, savory moments.
In a certain pragmatic sense, it’s a logical continuation for the gregariously upbeat and talented ensemble. Sadly, the overall, befuddling track order, on top of invariably mundane selections, however few, nebulously befalls “The Outer Ocean”; off the top of my head, I’d drop the jejune, if not tritely redemptive, opening anthem, “Break Out” (denote reasons why in my rather sardonic write-up for the above mentioned single), not to mention the honky-tonk, “spats-&-waistcoat”, saloon piano imbued “Dream Machine”, as it jarringly throws one off course following the all-out rocking and nostalgically Shadowline reminiscent humdinger, “On the Run” (here, Night Viper & co. imperially call for its frank return!).
Another unequivocal highlight consists of the mystically reverb’d and watery “Secular Wire” – Ideal for riveting river-boat rides, mind – which compels me to don smoky aviators in clashing concert with queerly patched hippie-dippie ware – you’ll have to forgive me for absconding on the mullet – with no apparent regard or concern for my fellows’ a) affably vexing mockery, or, Hell forbid, b) intransigent derision, scorn, and good ole fashioned contumely...
Granted, the placid and so-so title track serves its thematic purpose but, essentially, it’s yet another eschewable number which fails to fan the flames of cold desire. On the other, chthonic hand, a hot-to-trot, fiery and libaciously Kiss sounding, lead choked “Vindicated Blues” does exactly that – namely, “vindicate” said wan, platonic and irrepressibly tame predecessor, whilst top highlight, the glumly catchy “To the Light”, auspiciously sounds derived from Orchid’s sophomoric and (Black) “Sabbath-ian” “The Mouths of Madness” (arguably) released to wide acclaim in 2013.
That said, alongside its North American, Cisco-based brethren, some might accuse this gloomily swooning closer of disturbingly blatant O.O. copy-cat-ism, yet, in my book (i.e. heavy metal “Necronomicon”) there’s nothing wrong with infusing a little “Master of Reality” – circa 1971- kookiness – alongside heady anti-War sentiment and general amusement – Into one’s chair/devil-horn tossing festivities, eh?
Speaking of wanton emulation, I also couldn't help but notice how the first few bars of “Delusions in the Sky” – a definite pro-list offering, in any case, thanks to its poignantly evocative lyrics and refrain – loudly mimic the classic “Born to be Wild(e)” by Steppenwolf, or how the radio-friendly, however cumbrously titled, “On an Endless Day of Everlasting Winter” makes crisp, bopping use of ZZ Top’s “La Grange” styled up-strokes backed by a jazzy and footloose drum prattle. Alternatively, the brashest, heaviest and least “wistful” selection happens to be its crankily compressed and celeritous, aptly named successor, “Heavy Skies”. Strangely enough, the latter is characterized by an utter lack of leads, so feel free to relegate it to the backburner, beside fellow detractors.
In retrospect, there’s a bit of something for everyone on “The Outer Ocean”, so there’s a good chance you’ll find a few, if not most, of the eleven songs to your liking. One particular aspect is indisputable: Tholl’s bass bounces around in a most egregious and plump, audible manner, thus providing each song with its own adventurous undertow whilst drummer Anders Bentell competently fills Enforcer & Black Trip’s Jonas Wikstrand’s shoes – or, if you prefer, “shit-kickers” to a gruff, rowdier crowd.
Above all, consider dual axe jockeys Pete Stjärnvind & Linus Björklund’s rich and dominant minor-pentatonic lead playing as the driving force behind VOJD’s acclimatizing appeal. Suffice to say, the kinetically amped duo duly hammers it home, especially, as noted, on “Vindication Blues” and, ah, an Esso Petrol plagiarizing “On the Run” (You must be Canadian to “get me” there...). Oh, the intensely rock-ish and cowbell “tok” vested before-last number, “Walk Me Under” should also be hailed as a chivalrous and heroic VODJ flagship. Anyhow, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it once more: guitar solo freaks such as myself owe it to themselves to check out any and all Black Trip/VOJD releases, as I fully assure their fair share of giddily expunged air-guitar wizardry and/or enthrallment – this, you can confidently take to the bank!
To conclude, I’d be misleading if I claimed I wasn’t the least bit disappointed with “The Outer Ocean”. Nor do I fully understand what compelled not just the band name change, but significant line-up variations as well (i.e. Johan Bergebäck and Sebastian Ramstedt’s replacement with Björklund and Bentell). Ah, well! I’ll simply spare myself the (potentially nefarious) details and instead focus on, er, “to” the light. (I’m good and ready for that ever-lovin’slap by now...)
Solidly, if not candidly, recommended to fans of hyper-melodic Scandinavian traditional heavy metal such as the above mentioned, as well as energetic and stimulating 70s rock in general (including, according to a stormily erudite HM correspondent, the wry likes of “Thin Lizzy Borden”...).