“The Precious Ones” sounds like it could be from Lord Of The Rings, however, it is the single that deathgaze rockers, VAZUM, dropped on the 18th of November. Emily Sturm and Zach Pliska are gearing up for an album drop next year, called V Sessions, but in the meantime you can listen to the new single with it’s complimentary two b-sides.
Pliskais the main vocalist this time for “The Precious Ones” and venomously spits out the lyrics, while the guitars are violently loud, rolling like thunder in their discontent and the drums emphatic. Sturm’s vocals wind around the chorus almost stealing it. “Actor” really slides into deathrock mode with the buzzing guitar work, that occasionally breaks out then returns to the fold. The way the rhythm moves is very snake like. The last track sees both the vocalists sharing the duties, screaming out guitars and what feels like intense pressure in the build up for “Skooge“.
I actually had to look up “Skooge” and it was in the urban dictionary as basically describing an idiot. These tracks definitely have a common theme running through all of them…..pretty much go fuck yourself and go fucking die. I mean I could be wrong but I don’t think I am. “The Precious Ones” is a dig at a scene that often is constantly looking backwards at what has been, rather than the new music there is now. Many, many moons ago, I used to run a club and if you played all the classics, you were guaranteed a full dance floor. Introduce something new but great, suddenly the floor was clear. If I go out, I still hear all the same music….it is boring and like going back in a time machine. Plus, I guess there are probably certain musicians today that will have everyone pandering to them, while others will miss out on coverage even though they deserve to be heard. In the meantime, the single and extra tracks are fantastic. I love the furious guitars and VAZUM being all prickly has made this all the more interesting. Watch out for “The Precious Ones“…….
Detroit deathgaze duo, VAZUM have their latest single, “Angel“, awaiting your pleasure. Dropped on June the 24th, it can be found on Bandcamp for name yourprice.
There is a harkening back to a 90s sound, but my goodness, those guitars sounds so incredibly good. I do like it when they have the dueling vocals through the chorus and the lyrics speak of a person who acts self righteous, however, lacks moral fibre and blames everyone but themselves when caught in a lie.
This might be my favourite song yet by VAZUM. Zach Pliska is the lead vocalist this time and Emily Sturm does a stirling job at backing vocals. There is a heavier accent on the deathrock influence here. It’s hard to describe but the feeling is that VAZUM are becoming ever more comfortable and confident. A cohesive ease so to speak. Beware of any “Angel” as they might beguile you with their light and betray you with a kiss.
VAZUM came onto the American music scene in 2018. The heart of the band is made up of Zach Pliska, who planted the dark seed of VAZUM, and later in 2019 joined by Emily Sturm, together creating their own style of gothic rock called deathgaze. In those three years they have put out albums and singles, even dropping a Christmas EP, Vazumnacht. We spoke to these two creatures of the night to find out what lies in the crypt of VAZUM.
Welcome to Onyx.
VAZUM have been releasing music in the current line up, since 2019. How did this project and the band come together?
Zach: Emily and I met in the Summer of 2019 at a local goth club and we bonded over bands like Bauhaus and Smashing Pumpkins. I had a few VAZUM shows planned for the Fall and Emily stepped in on bass. One of the shows we opened for The Genitorturers. When the pandemic hit we got more serious about recording and releasing music. With Emily’s help I finished the album I had been working on, Vampyre Villa. We then set to work on our Halloween inspired album Rated V which was a collaboration where we wrote and produced together. We released both albums in 2020. We realized how well we worked together and became inspired to create music videos, upgrade our recording equipment and continue writing more songs.
A lot of your music seems to be based around mythical creatures as well as dark forgotten places. Would you agree and if so, what draws you to these subjects?
Emily:I’ve pretty much been obsessed with fairy tales since I was a kid. There was a pretty big chunk of my childhood that we did not own TV in my family. So I was given lots of books to read instead. One of my favorites was a collection of Hans Christian Anderson stories. When I was a little older I got this big thick book called 1000 page book of stories for Christmas. It had Mary Shelley, Poe, Wilde, etc. and that was the beginning of the end. Totally hooked. As a result, those are the themes that still inspire me the most today.
I think in some cases you have empathy for these characters but i also hear that you paint them in the light they were originally painted in… such as vampires being cold blooded hunters of men. Do you think is the case?
Emily: Of course there are many nuanced interpretations throughout literature and legend about the exact nature of a vampire. In our lyrics for the song – vampire – we approach it as a creature that is completely self aware. At once feeling supremely powerful on one hand and yet weakened and brought low by immortality on the other. I was inspired mostly by Anne Rice’s interpretation of vampires (may she rest in peace). The fact that only the very strong willed can even deal with the actual reality of immortality and that most humans that are transformed into vampires are slowly driven insane. Once everyone they knew when they were mortal dies, society changes, that feeling of being out of touch and alone in the world, they then end their vampiric life by throwing themselves in a fire. Most of them never make it past 200 to 300 years old. We wanted to convey that feeling in the song. Being so ancient, tired, yet still lusting for blood.
So Emily, I gather you are the architect of a lot of the visuals in the lyrics?
Emily: We run our ideas off each other. A lot of the times we’ll work on a song together and build on what the other has already started. I gravitate more towards horror and fairy tales and try to tell a story. I love the visual aspect of the band, whether that’s through videos, photos, artwork or jewelry.
You have progressed to a more electronic sound while also producing more traditional goth/darkwave. Was this a natural progression and does the material also lend itself to the change in tone?
Zach: We’ve always liked re-working songs. Sometimes we’ll re-work a song and it will turn into a completely different song. With the electronic versions it’s more of a remix where we’re using elements from the original version. It’s fun because we are both fans of electronic music although Emily listens to more electronic than I do. It challenges us to think about things differently and changes our approach. I’ve been more involved with the technical side of producing and engineering and doing the remixes has definitely sharpened my skills. There’s a lot of freedom involved with the remixes, it’s our time to experiment and try new things. And people seem to appreciate the different aspects of the electronic vs rock.
Some purists say that electronics and the industrial aesthetic don’t belong in the gothic/darkwave genre. How do you feel about that kind of attitude especially seeing as most older ‘post-punk’ bands have used tape loops, synths and drum machines etc?
Emily: I think people that nitpick and try to over analyze styles just don’t have anything better to do.
Zach: I see a lot of arguments online about what’s goth, what’s post-punk, etc. I guess some people enjoy arguing and trying to prove their point. That’s one of the reasons we started calling ourselves a Deathgaze band. We want to differentiate ourselves from all of that.
As you said, you describe your style as Deathgaze. What for you creates Deathgaze?
Zach: Deathgaze is a combination of deathrock and shoegaze. It’s a way of combining our influences into our own sound. And it’s a production style which we are honing. I like to keep deathgaze in mind as we’re working on new songs and recordings. It helps us stay inspired and challenged. The best part about deathgaze is it has yet to be defined. Deathgaze is a new genre which we are shaping as we evolve. Goth, post-punk, industrial – those have already been defined and established by other bands years ago. Deathgaze is something we can call our own.
I always like to ask what music influenced you when you were younger? What do you listen to now and find inspirational/pleasing?
Zach: Smashing Pumpkins were my biggest influence as a teenager. I was a product of the 90’s so a lot of the grunge bands and some nu-metal is what got me going as I began playing in bands. Lately I’ve been listening to classical and jazz which I’m gaining more appreciation for. Emily’s early influences were new wave artists like Gary Numan, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Love and Rockets. Lately she’s been listening to Death Grips.
Covid has changed the music scene in the last two years, with acts unable to perform live, putting out music on Bandcamp, the rise of the EP becoming far more acceptable and online concerts. How has it affected VAZUM?
Zach: The pandemic set the course for the trajectory we are on now. Beforehand I was distracted with playing drums for other bands. Covid has given us the time needed to focus on VAZUM and what we want to accomplish. We’ve been able to meet our goals of releasing music and videos. We just need to start playing live again and touring.
You have released quite a few albums in a short amount of time such as Vampyre Villa, Rated V, VAZUM and so on. Why so many albums in quick succession?
Zach: We enjoy the process from start to end and are honing it in more so we can be productive. We do all the recording and production ourselves so we don’t have to wait around for engineers or other people. I’ve always been obsessive with music whether it’s practicing an instrument or listening to a favorite band. My current focus is on releasing music and keeping a steady stream of content going. I like working on songs in the moment and having a deadline to release them. That’s exciting and adds a level of pressure which we feed off of.
What is in-store for VAZUM and their fans in the future?
Zach: We feel like we’re just getting started and have a lot more to offer in terms of singles, albums, videos and content in general. And when people are ready for live shows and want to see us play, we’ll be right there waiting. I’ve spent a lot of time in previous bands playing live as a drummer and I do miss playing live. I hope for VAZUM to spend a significant amount of time touring.
Purveyors of gloom and dead things that go bump in the night, VAZUM, are a very productive duo. It seems not that long ago we reviewed the album Rated V and now they have a new double single, that is not on the last album. “Gallows” is the name of the single dropped at the beginning of January and it is a double single in pixie point boots.
An eerie guitar swell that rolls into Sturm’s vocals, so is issued forth the warning to not to go to the Gallows, for a terrible fate will await you. Her voice is light and airy, bringing notice to the heavy done of the music, causing a sense of unease. The second song is the LostForestMix of “Gallows” with a wondrous far more synth spin which is equally spooky and a little electronically colder.
It is nice to hear gothic music that embraced both the more traditional guitar based music and evolving a more industrial sound as well. “Gallows” is an atmospheric deathgaze (goth +shoegaze) piece and dark synth affair you can indulge in.
Zac Pliska and Emily Sturm make up the band known as VAZUM. Their music has been described as deathrock with shoegaze or deathgaze but on the latest album, there has been a paradigm shift. They released the new album titled Unrated V on October 22nd and the theme throughout seems to be the creatures and humans that inhabit the inky night and demonic spaces.
From the beginning, you can hear that his is going to be a different VAZUM album, a more industrial electro sound is creeping in and the “Jester” is a genuinely verbose and grandiose example. The nine minute epic will wind you up in it’s synth laden tentacles, enthralling you. The single “Lycanthrope” very much features Sturm’s vocals in this tale of werewolves and the animals men become. The chorus is a beautiful swirling gothic affair and speaking of gothic, vampires come hand in hand with the genre. “Vampyre” is probably a far more truthful examination of the blood suckers world, where everyone is just a food source to them. A nice heavy mood that smothers us in the dank blood-lust.
Everyone needs a woman pieced together from other’s dead flesh so they can have a “Frankenstein Gurl” though she will more than likely kill you in the end and this tune is a stonking representation with it’s scintillating synths and uncompromising rhythm. The tone turns a bit stalkerish as we join the “Vampire Killer” on his quest to remove the parasites that plaque human kind. There is great purpose to the music and Pliska cannot be swayed by Sturm’s sensual words of ownership and death. The synths waver and Latin is invoked for this is the “Wytch Lych“. The track gives the impression of impending doom if you are not found worthy of the witch’s time and it is a fabulously powerful piece.
For the rest of the album, it delves into a more instrumental and experimental vein. “Fantoms” is full of bells tolling, dark bass tone and creeping synths like something you would find in a Hammer Horror movie as Christopher Lee searches for his next victim. The far more electronic “Wytch Tech“, with Sturm’s sighed vocals could be a modern summoning ritual putting you into a techno trance. Following up is “Summon Her” where there are industrial clanks and screeching, near metallic sounds. You can imagine a thick fog where disturbing not quite human voices can be heard.
There has been folklore tied to the Gypsy people that they have unnatural powers and you will have to make up your mind as you listen to the trap like “Romany Way“. I remember a dark, British children’s television show I watched as a child, where there was an old grandfather clock that would strike thirteen at night and everything would go back to a past life. “Thirteenth Hour” reminded me of this with it’s mysterious wending synths. Your final track is “The Abyss“, a place that is unfathomable and permeates the mind with dread at what lays within, the unknown and music gives it a science fiction overdrive.
Some bands go on and they often lose what drew you to them or the quality just cannot be maintained. VAZUM just seems to be going from strength to strength. They remind me of the wonderful Faith And The Muse except they have a dark gritty core mixing industrial into their music which is making them a hybrid beast of much beauty.
Fancy a little gothic Christmas? Nothing says cheer like a carol and Vazum have released for those that aren’t inclined to listening to the regular fare, an EP of dark, tormented odes to the Yuletide, Vazumnacht. If you are unfamiliar with Vazum, they are a gothic/deathrock/shoe gaze, two piece made up of Zach Pliska and Emily Sturm, who are based in Detroit.
There are three numbers on this EP, starting with “Carol Of The Witch“. This is a parody of the traditional song “Carol Of The Bells“, which is instantly striking from the start, done as guitar riffs but after the beginning, this become a gothic dirge of pagan proportions. Discordant guitars sit with Pliska’s almost groaned vocals, while Sturm’s singing, storm through like light breaking through darkness. There are resurgences of the original tune but it just ties it all in.
Me thinks a bit of devil may care is a foot in “Unholy Nite“. Like a chant to summons the dark lord, this shadows “Holy Night” with references to the dark saviour and sulphur.
The synths almost feel off beat in comparison to the guitar, giving an off kilter sensation to “Bark The Hellhounds” and yes this is a nod to “Hark The Herald Angels” but done in the creepy, hurdy gurdy style that Vazum excels in.
In essence, Vazum have taken the bones of three highly favoured carols and not only putting their spin on those songs but for the most part, created new songs. So darklings, get your gothic finest on and celebrate the doomed side of Christmas with Vazumnacht.