“How will I go on with the pain of what now is? How will I go on with the pain of what has been?” — that, in part, is how Vouna mastermind Yianna Bekris concludes the funeral doom project’s newly available full-length album Atropos, and the lines aptly reflect the mood of the work as a whole.
Find a Q & A with Bekris about the new album below. First, here’s a review:
The record — available now from Profound Lore Records — is (fittingly enough, considering that label name) profoundly stirring. If the traditional idea of a walk through the valley of the shadow of death was somehow turned into an album, then well — it would probably sound like Atropos. The record is expansive, including entrancing musical nuances, yet the perspective remains personal. That walk, in other words, seems solitary — the stern, persistent riffs evoke a sense of stark finality, so that within the album’s world, a poignant look at the strain that it explores remains central, because there’s just about nothing else within view.
Specifically, Atropos thematically examines death, Bekris has explained. Once the reality of a given instance of death settles into place like an oppressive and potentially destabilizing fog — that’s where this latest Vouna effort emerges from the rhetorical soil.
Although the music gets fittingly intense at times, senses of either struggle or overall chaos do not figure prominently in the experience of Atropos. Instead, alongside other feelings like existential exhaustion, there’s a sense of acceptance. That acceptance doesn’t entail an erasure of the pain that has unfolded and which this record reflects — the music, while noticeably breathable, is heavy — but there is still a subtly freeing lightness within the journey as it proceeds. Atropos, in part, seems like an expression of quiet observance, reflecting moments when senses of temporary control may fade as the processes of life and death unfold.
Atropos could be described as a perspective that, while grounded and accessible, looks beyond the self, specifically examining feelings of dissolution within the sometimes enigmatic processes of decay that outline existence.
Instrumentally, the record supports this idea with captivatingly majestic flourishes delivered via music that seems concerned with and caring towards its metaphorical surroundings. Even in terms of the foundational doom metal riffing, Bekris utilizes smoothly presented rhythmic unease, expanding the album’s musical portrait. The music — even if gradually — shifts, moving through synth-driven atmosphere that evokes somber darkwave alongside blistering blasts of formidable riffing, bringing black metal into view.
Generally, the record moves slowly, allowing for the kind of weighted self-contemplation that can lead into sudden bursts of emotion — and Vouna reflects those moments right alongside the rest of this album’s powerfully affecting journey.
Featured image via Dreaming God
Find Vouna — and Atropos — on Bandcamp at this link.
Listen to Atropos below:
Below, check out an extended Q & A with Yianna Bekris regarding Atropos:
The Journey of Atropos
Captured Howls: Overall, how would you characterize the emotional journey that the album takes and the themes that it explores?
Yianna Bekris: The album is about death, or that’s kind of the theme of the album. And I think a lot of times, when people talk about death, or they use it as a theme in their music — I mean in metal obviously, it’s a very common theme. I mean, I don’t want to talk shit about all the other bands that have ever had that theme, but I think oftentimes, it’s not very complex. I was trying to make the album have some emotional complexity.
When you’re grieving, it comes in waves. Sometimes, you’ll be thinking back about this person you lost, and you think back to a happy memory. And then that’s when you are hit with the grief, because you’re like — oh, that’s never going to happen again. And then you feel the loss and the grief, but then it comes from a happy memory. There’s also — sometimes there’s a sense of disbelief, too. I was trying to capture that kind of complexity, and I mean, it’s kind of difficult portraying emotions through music sometimes. I try really hard not to sit down and write a riff and be like — this riff is going to be a sad riff. I try to put myself in the state of those emotions, and then just write what comes out of me.
And so that’s kind of what I was trying to do. I was just trying to portray emotional complexity as it pertains to how we feel when we’re dealing with death.
CH: Would you say that when writing these songs, you used those emotional themes as something like a guidepost for how the tracks would sound?
Bekris: I try to not have too much intention when I’m writing the riffs themselves. I really think it’s important to just kind of let them flow out of me. But when I’m putting the songs together, and like choosing the different riffs, then yeah definitely, I kind of use that as a guidepost. Because I’m like — well I think this riff sounds like this; I think this riff is kind of bleak, or I think this one is kind of powerful or triumphant, you know? And I want this part of the song to be more triumphant, and then this part to be more bleak. That’s kind of how my process works and how it did with this record.
Inspirations for the Record
CH: Compared to the first Vouna album, this one seems to have a more prominent component of doomy guitars. Were you interested in exploring something like a classic doom vibe here?
Bekris: Actually, it was more about the fact that I’m more of a guitarist. And with the first record, I had just bought a synth for the first time, and I was really excited about playing it. So a lot of the riffs on the first record were written on synth first, and then I would layer guitar over it.
But this time it was kind of the opposite. Even though there are definitely some riffs that I wrote on the synth this time, I just — because it’s kind of inhibiting if you’re writing on an instrument that isn’t exactly your instrument. So I was like — I just want to write on guitar this time, because that’s my instrument, and it’ll just be easier for me. And I would still jam on synth of course, but I just wanted to not be inhibited — because I was inhibited so much by technology the first time too, because I was unfamiliar with recording on the computer in that way, and writing in that way by using a DAW. I just wanted to be more free this time. So that’s why I chose to use the guitar.
CH: On a more meta- level, would you say that the real-world, pandemic circumstances that surrounded the creation of the record weighed in any way on how it turned out?
Bekris: Definitely. I wrote most of the record before the pandemic, but I recorded it in isolation. And I think it definitely gives the record I guess more of a lonely vibe. Because, it was just hard to spend so much time alone, recording and trying to — I mean I was trying to get everything right when I was recording, but it’s really hard when you don’t have someone there to tell you that you didn’t play something well enough, or that you played it well enough. In my case, I think often I wish I had someone there who could be like — no, it’s good enough. Because I can be a perfectionist sometimes. But sometimes I also lose perspective. So yeah, I definitely think it contributed to the vibe in that way.
[…] It was really tough. By the time I was done, I was just like wrecked, you know? From recording for so long and doing it all by myself and everything. And when it was done, I like couldn’t believe it was done.
Other Guideposts and Overall Themes
CH: So, ahead of Vouna, what was your musical experience like?
Bekris: I’ve been in a lot of different bands over the years. I think the two most recent projects, and also the two projects where I had a hand in the songwriting the most, were — I had a black metal band called Eigenlicht, which is kind of on hiatus now. And I played guitar in that band, and all I did was play guitar, which was really awesome. And then I had another band called Vradiazei, which was like a neo-folk band, and that band’s broken up. But I played guitar in that one, and I sang. It was mostly an instrumental project, but we did have a lead singer on some songs, who sang lyrics and everything. But when we first started out, it was just lyric-less. And there were barely any vocals.
And then before that, I had a ton of different bands. I mean I started playing drums in bands when I was a teenager. And my first band was a punk band — but I don’t like punk. It was just like — I was learning how to play drums, and this other girl at school was like: Let’s start a punk band. And I was like — well I don’t even like punk, but I’ll play with you. And then after that, I played in death metal bands when I was a teenager — all very bad, like teenage death metal bands.
And then after that, that’s when I started playing guitar in bands, and I started Vradiazei when I moved to Olympia. […] I had an acoustic guitar, that actually I bought from the girl that I started the punk band with. And I was like writing black metal riffs on the acoustic guitar, so I wanted an outlet for that, so I started this neo-folk band that was like basically an acoustic black metal band — I mean, in a way. And then I guess before that, I played flute in band when I was a kid, and I took piano lessons when I was really little, but just for a couple years. So yeah, that basically sums up my musical experience.
CH: There seemed to be some stately drama on par with gothic metal in there. Were you going for something along those lines?
Bekris: Oh yeah, that was definitely intentional. Especially because I sing clean, […] and especially when the style of doom you’re playing is rooted in like — I like the Peaceville 3, and funeral doom, and stuff like that — if you have female vocals over music like that […] it can get a little cheesy sometimes. Which you know, as a metalhead of course I love cheesiness, but I wanted it to be kind of goth, but I didn’t want it to be goth in like the gothic doom way. I wanted it to be goth in more of a darkwave sort of way.
When I was a kid, I loved a lot of goth bands. Like I loved Siouxsie & the Banshees when I was a kid, you know, when I was a teenager and everything. And so, I was like really trying to have that sort of production instead of having — especially with the vocals, and with a lot of the synths and everything, instead of the production that comes with a lot of the gothic doom bands. Even though, as I was saying, I have a soft spot for a lot of those bands. And you know, My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost — you could say they were the first gothic doom bands — are like huge influences of mine too. So not trying to talk shit on gothic doom, but yeah, I was just trying to go to the roots with the goth sound.
CH: Ultimately, would you say that there’s a level of catharsis with the album, or peace? Even if it’s peace with kind of the shadow of other pain hanging over the whole thing, would you say that those kinds of things make an appearance?
Bekris: Definitely. I definitely was trying to have some kind of peaceful moments on the record. And you know, when I finished it, I did feel a sense of peace. I felt disbelief and peace. So yeah, definitely. […] I wouldn’t say I prioritized it; it was more incidental, I would say.
CH: Would you say that there’s something particular you hope really comes across for listeners?
Bekris: I really hope that people will give it the time and listen to the entire record. Because I think — and I know that people a lot of times don’t listen to entire records these days, and they listen to just songs and things like that. I’m definitely guilty of that myself, but I really hope people will listen to it in its entirety and be immersed in it. I just hope people can be immersed in it, and that was kind of what I was going for when I was making the record, is I really wanted it to be more of like an experience, instead of just something that you’re listening to.
CH: Are there things that you’ve had on heavy rotation lately?
Bekris: I haven’t really been listening to music. Part of the reason is because I’m in grad school, and the stuff I study is very mathematical, and I do a lot of computer programming and stuff. It’s hard for me to listen to music when I’m doing that stuff, because it is too distracting. So I haven’t really been listening to music. I feel like it’s kind of blasphemous to say, but honestly I haven’t been listening to anything. […] I’m hoping now that the summer is starting, I don’t have to really take classes very much — I still have to do my research, but I’m hoping I’ll have some time to just sit back and listen to music. That sounds really nice. And like see what’s out there — I feel like I am also not up to date on what is out there.