Janvs
Vega

Apt title, Janvs. Naming your band after the two-faced Roman deity is a good way to underscore the dual nature of your identity. In this case, it’s a fresh blend of black metal’s speedy ferocity with a more contemplative, emotional side. It might be too early to call these guys the Italian black metal Opeth, but there’s a lot here that recalls that band’s famous light/heavy interplay.

For most of the album, that duality is primarily expressed as you progress track by track. Opener “Torri de Vetro” is a slicing assault, but rendered with a bright, clean sound that emphasizes a unique melodic sensibility. This is not your typically eeevil Dark Funeral rehash or a cramped, mesmerizing drone – it’s an original, energetic take on the genre. In some ways, this – and “Mediterraneo,” which comes later – recall melodeath’s riff-oriented exuberance (with Finnish bands like Omnium Gatherum being the closest points of comparison). There are also a few gentle interludes in both tracks, but it’s not until we hit “Saphire” or the title track that the other side of Janvs’ identity is fully expressed.

These tracks unfold more like a blend between Agalloch and Anathema, featuring plaintive clean vocals set against soaring, sorrowful melodies. “Saphire” comes off a little jazzier and playful, but “Vega” is a swooning nocturne, full of delicate moments and big emotional peaks. Lead singer Matteo “Vinctor” Barelli has a rich, confident voice – equal parts Mikael Akerfeldt and Vincent Cavanagh (although parts of “Saphire” oddly reminded me of Perry Farrell as well). The fact that he delivers his vocals in Italian just makes them soar that much more. In an unconventional inverse, these mellow tracks feature short blasts of black metal at their cores, but I found these digressions to be more jarring than exciting. Only “Vesper II” brings both of Janvs’ halves – furious battery and gentler introspection – together, and it’s a stunning finale. In the future I think I’d prefer this kind of even-handed balance, and it’s this song in particular that really drives the Opeth comparison home.

(It does seem that Janvs also has a third identity trying to be heard, represented by track 3, “Tarab.” It’s an experimental piece of doom with an Arabic vibe, but it lacks the energy and flowing melodies of the other tracks, and just disrupts the album as a whole. No disrespect to the band, but I generally skip past it.)

Any fresh take on black metal is always extremely welcome, especially when executed with as much quality as Vega. In a lot of ways, Janvs reminds me of (now-defunct) Italian compatriots Spite Extreme Wing, a band that also fused a novel melodic expression onto a conventional black metal framework. Their final release, Vltra, is fantastic in its own right, but the stark uniformity of that album sometimes makes it a slog to get through. Vegas shifting moods, introspective moments and warmer melodies make it something I think I’ll be returning to more often. Strongly recommended.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
February 13th, 2009

Comments

  1. Commented by: axiom

    Man, I gotta check this out. I thought Spite Extreme Wing’s latest was excellent also.


  2. Commented by: stiffy

    For a guy like me who doesn’t like a lot of Black, this rulz my face. I liked the last release by them just as much. Agalloch fans, this is a must. Great review, Jordan. You have been nailing some lately.


  3. Commented by: Belgarath

    Yeah, I really love this. Great review.


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