Album Title: Striving Toward Oblivion
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Date of Release: 4 February 2022
What on Earth is going on with Transcending Obscurity Records at the moment? They are fast becoming a firm favourite with me of late thanks to some great releases at the heavier, more extreme end of the music spectrum. So far in 2022, I have been impressed with albums from Abyssus and Necrophagous, both very solid slabs of death metal, albeit quite different in their respective approaches. And now I’m faced with this, the debut full-length album from Vorga entitled ‘Striving Toward Oblivion’.
Rather than death metal, Vorga instead plunder the realms of black metal, admittedly with a death edge in places. But black metal is definitely the key ingredient here, and I have to say that I have been smitten by this record. Vorga hail from Germany and are comprised of three musicians, guitarist Atlas, drummer Jervas, and vocalist/bassist Cпeйca, who came together back in 2016.
Based on the content of ‘Striving Toward Oblivion’, their modus operandi is to attack from the very beginning, and maintain the sonic bombardment for the vast majority of the album. The pace is brisk, with blastbeats and fast-picked riffs sitting at the heart of each of the eight compositions. And if I had any slight niggle whatsoever, it’s that there could have been just a smidge more variety in the pace of the material on the album. But this is more a case of trying to find fault with an album where none really exists because the slower sections make more of an impact by being judiciously placed. What’s more, ‘Striving Toward Oblivion’ is not overly long, so a forty-minute barrage of frosty, aggressive, and fast black metal isn’t much of a hardship, especially when the end result sounds this good.
The energetic approach is made even more palatable by the inclusion of some really sensitive melodies interwoven masterfully into the material. Plus, the atmospheres that Vorga create add yet another layer of enjoyment to proceedings. I really like the higher-pitched raspy vocals of Cпeйca, and the way in which they have been deliberately placed within the mix, rather than on top if that makes sense? What I mean is that the vocals feel very much part of the music, rather than an addition. At times, they almost blend into the riffs to simply add atmosphere, whilst at others, they can be heard more clearly to accent a passage or section of a song. As a result, you can’t deny the ‘atmospheric black metal’ tag that has already been thrown Vorga’s way thus far.
As you might expect from the striking artwork which initially drew me in to this album, the atmospheres do carry with them a certain other-worldly quality, a grandiose celestial, sci-fi element that I find very appealing, and which helps Vorga to set themselves apart from other bands within the genre. The music isn’t wholly original, but it does have more than enough about it for Vorga to stand out and make a strong impression, of that I have no doubt.
It is almost impossible to pick out any of the tracks individually for praise because ‘Striving Toward Oblivion’ is a very consistent beast. If you like the sound of the opening track, you’ll almost certainly enjoy the last and all six in between. However, I feel that a slightly closer look at the music is required, so I’ll mention a few for this purpose alone.
And, to be a little perverse, I’m going to begin with a track that sits right in the middle of the record, and one that doesn’t open from the first second with a flurry of blastbeats, ‘Last Transmission’. Instead, it opens with a full ten seconds of atmospheric melody before activating the hyperdrive. That ten second intro is important though because it sets out the central melody that appears throughout this amazing track. The drumming from Jervas is relentless, but I really like the sound of them, pummelling with authority whilst a beautifully haunting melodic lead line from Atlas weaves through the song like an icy vein. Definitely one of the catchiest compositions, it is also one of my favourites, thanks to a short section where the pummelling is replaced by some dancing bass lines and some measure of respite, before rebuilding to attack the senses once again.
The opening track, ‘Starless Sky’ has to be mentioned too, because it is the perfect tone-setter for the album. I love the fact that there’s no instrumental intro, and that instead we’re battered wi warp speed black metal excess. The lead guitar lines will call to mind the likes of Dissection or even Immortal to some of you, but in a very positive, not derivative way. And I love the way that a catchy riff is allowed prime position within a brief pause, carrying with it a sense of catchy groove, only for the song to return to blood and thunder aural violence.
‘Comet’, on the other hand, is one of the most varied affairs on ‘Striving Toward Oblivion’, particularly in terms of tempo and also regarding the amount of atmosphere that the band inject into the song. It also features some of the most killer lead lines, meaning that it is catchy as hell in places and completely irresistible. Then there’s the incredibly majestic and refined-sounding ‘Stars My Destination’ which further demonstrates the abilities of Vorga.
A debut record it may be, but ‘Striving Toward Oblivion’ has everything that you could possibly want from an atmospheric and melodic black metal album, including something that cannot be quantified: presence. It is this assured presence and impressive maturity that, when coupled with their musical endeavours, should propel the Germans to greatness, from the deep and dark underground to the stratosphere and beyond, to the farthest reaches of space, as fittingly depicted on the cover of this album.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have an early contender for the throne of black metal in 2022, and it arrives in the magnificent and masterful form of ‘Striving Toward Oblivion’ by Vorga.
The Score of Much Metal: 93%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: