Life and death march on — and so does Vanha, the presently one-man doom metal project of Sweden’s Jan Johansson, whose second album Melancholia releases December 30 on Black Lion Records.
The six tracks feel like a monument of truly contemplative doom. Although often, sonically expansive metal feels like it’s pointed upward and outward at something higher and greater than ourselves, this album feels more like a mirror. Whereas other blackened doom metal works might traverse down through the rungs of hell in a somewhat figurative sense, Melancholia climbs down a ladder into the depths of the soul with all the nuance that you’d hope and expect would accompany such a journey.
The album only gets more crushing as it proceeds, but the songs never lose their sonically dynamic flavor. Johansson presents anguished but soulful clean vocals as smoothly as he belts out deep sludgy lows, and his work truly becomes all the better because of his range. His latest record most certainly does not feel like just another doom metal release, instead taking the listener for a journey via music that feels drawn from his own real personal experience.
Musically, he supports the real human emotion packed into his voice with similarly emotionally driven melody. As opposed to just crafting something that’s technically impressive and interesting to look at and ends there, he focuses his energy on memorable and poignant melody poised to really mean something for the listener. His melodic concepts repeat and build — this is doom metal — but there’s also a welcoming nature to them that allows the listener to really latch on.
Throughout the ultimately solidly metal-edged work, there are a number of reprieves for the listener through means including welcome use of classical stringed instruments. What sounds like violin music really flows into the rest of the work strikingly, driving home the impact of Vanha’s travel through the emotional depths that much more fully. Johansson feels conscious of how best to accommodate the broad life based concepts that he’s portraying and the acutely nuanced music he’s aiming to make, and ultimately, the musical elements he presents come together strikingly and memorably.
Listen below via Bandcamp