Perhaps more than any other style of music, metal has an obsession with genre. I’ve always found this at least somewhat baffling. Metal, after all, is the music of nonconformity; therefore, it seems a bit counterintuitive to want all metal to fit neatly into some box or other, which in a broad sense is fine—death and black metal are two very different types of music—but it also can lead to some really unhelpful classifications like psychedelic blackened post-sludge (which actually probably describes The Atlas Moth pretty well, but I digress).
So what does any of this have to do with Chicago’s Varaha? On their stunning self-titled debut EP, the Chicago-based quartet makes music that defies easy classification. Take the heavy Cure-isms of a dark gothic band like Katatonia, add a healthy dose of melodic Finnish doom a la Swallow the Sun, mix in the epic qualities of Pelican, add a dash of Deftones to the clean vocals, and then top it off with a bit of Alcest-esque blackgaze, and that’s a good starting point for Varaha’s sound. The two 7+ minute tracks that make up the bulk of the three song effort (the third track is a brief cello-and sax interlude featuring a guest spot from perennial IMS favorite Bruce Lamont) cover a lot of stylistic ground, but the group are deft enough musicians to be able to seamlessly navigate the twists and turns of each song, from single note drones to more complex melodic interplay. The songwriting evinces a remarkable confidence on the part of the band, which is more than justified by their flawless execution. This EP is epic, elegiac, and just flat out fucking gorgeous – particularly, the clean guitar tones that dominate. My only complaint with it is that it’s only two songs and an interlude in length. Hopefully this is just a teaser and a full-length is in the works for later in 2017.
Varaha is available for download via the group’s Bandcamp page. No word yet on a physical copy, but I hope there’s an LP version in the works – I need this on vinyl. Varaha will be opening for Amorphis and Swallow the Sun at Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago on Sunday, March 26.