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And to think this album is just their debut - 85%

TrooperOfSteel, April 30th, 2012

A Melbourne power/prog metal band sporting one of the best and most unique (and possibly lowbrow) names in the entire metal universe, Vulvagun, have burst onto the local metal scene and are backed by many years of musical experience. Vulvagun’s debut album, released in May of 2011 is entitled ‘Cold Moon Over Babylon’ and it is a large slice of intricate and dark power metal, with splashes of Maiden-esque progressive metal, soaring melodic vocals and splintering guitar riffs, hooks and solos. Any power metalhead’s bread and butter really.

Vulvagun comprises of founder and guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Wayne Dwyer, drummer Chris Phillips, guitarist George Larin and last but not least, bassist Evan Harris (of Black Majesty and Eyefear fame). The band was formed in 2010 and they wasted no time in recording their debut album, before the ink had even dried on the pieces of paper that contains the scribbles of lyrics and music. Songs were also tweaked and edited during the recording and mixing process, and before long; ‘Cold Moon Over Babylon’ was born.

While not a concept album, the CD is themed on a central idea, with stories revolving around it. That allows each track to stand up on its own strengths and merit, while also encompassing its own identity, characteristics and adding much depth and mystery. Each track contains stories based upon an ancient text (a Grimoire) that was later interpreted in the 16th and 17th centuries and used by scholars, giving warning about the dangers of using the dark arts and worshipping and invoking/summoning beasts and demons (a perfect script for a Supernatural episode if you ask me).

Vocalist Wayne Dwyer has a tremendous voice, perfect for melodic power metal and is similar in delivery to that of Bruce Dickinson. With a powerful range, Dwyer’s voice can soar high with effortless ease, or coast in the mid-range with great melody and assertion. Two thumbs up must be given to the remainder of the band, as their performance on this album is superb to say the least.

When listening to ‘Cold Moon Over Babylon’, I draw comparisons to the proggy side of the modern Iron Maiden sound, while Iced Earth, Brainstorm and solo Bruce Dickinson also comes to mind. One major factor in this CDs success is the exceptional song writing, which is totally unflawed in every way. The 13 tracks clock in at around 72 minutes, which is quite long, and great to see when most metal albums these days don’t go over 60 minutes. Aside from the two instrumentals, the songs range from five minutes to nine minutes.

I’d love to mention the entire tracklist as the killer songs on this album, but I really don’t want to spoil what will be a great listening experience for you. I will mention a few, however, some of the better of the bunch, starting with the opening track which is also the title track. Starting slowly with echoing guitars and a soft drum beat, the main charging riff sweeps through, which rises to another notch soon after and we are away. Top start! Wayne’s vocals then soar into the heavens and we are treated to seven minutes of awesome power/prog metal that includes a sensational solo.

“The Black Pyramid” is another top-notch song that quite catchy and memorable and fairly technical as well; with numerous tempo changes throughout the song, it is actually an air guitarists dream song. Both “Arise Neophyte” and “Malachi” are two straightforward yet completely kickass melodic power/prog tracks, that contain soaring vocals and powerful beats, riffs and solos to keep your head banging. Lastly, two more tracks that blew me away were the excellent “Of Pain, Transcendence and the Dark Design” (double bass, blistering guitar riffs, atmospheric vocals) and the nine minute epic “The Transit of Venus” (a soulful part semi-ballad with choirs, piano/synths and hardened galloping riffs).

The entire album is brilliant from beginning to end, and I must admit it is a welcomed surprise to hear such a smooth-flowing, consistent, catchy, memorable and technical CD like this one. With the quality of metal releases this year being slightly thin, it’s great to hear a brand new band deliver such a crushing, almost perfect disc for their first effort. I can only imagine what the next CD will bring. Wayne, Evan, Chris and George, you four need to take a bow as ‘Cold Moon Over Babylon’ is one of the better albums of 2011 and also one of the best Australian melodic power/prog metal release in quite some time. It’s needless to say, if any part of this review for Vulvagun peaked your interest, then you need to grab this CD while you can as you will not be disappointed.

Originally written for www.themetalforge.com

A cold moon over power metal. - 98%

Empyreal, March 29th, 2012

This is a really awesome album, one of the best power metal albums of the last few years, and from a band with a name like Vulvagun? That’s an accomplishment. This is heavy, epic, proggy power metal like Tad Morose used to put out before they just vanished off the face of the Earth, and me, I think it’s a great thing that we have bands carrying on that torch. And in some ways this is better than some of Tad Morose’s albums. High praise? Let’s dig into Cold Moon Over Babylon and find out what about it is so great.

This album is loaded with 6-8 minute songs with heavy, aggressive riffing, dynamic songwriting and the soaring Dickinson-esque vocals of band leader Wayne Dwyer. The songs are deceptively simple, as the band mostly rides out the same riffs until the end, but they craft such subtle atmospheres and building tension that even the longest songs here never get boring. Listen to the subtle folk melodies on “The Black Pyramid” in between the crushing mammoth riffing, or the way “A Murder of Demons” unwinds into its explosive, hypnotic chorus. That is awesome stuff.

Every song here is packed with hooky riffs and melodies woven into ace songwriting that just keeps on coming at you. The riffs are just great – meaty, hook-laden slabs of first-rate metal coming at you like tornados. When the title track kicks into gear you will be a fan of this band or you will be NOTHING. Listen to that crunchy riff, that soaring vocal section at the end of the chorus – “The pages turn to RAAAISE YOUR DEEEEEMON!” I think this is as good as metal gets. And “Union of the Snake,” with its full-speed-ahead barrage of riffs and the way Dwyer screams the song title? Pure metal bliss. I haven’t been this enthralled since I first heard Iron Maiden. This is the stuff you want to flail like a maniac, raise your fists and shout along to without a care in the world how you sound. “Of Pain, Transcendence and the Dark Design” is another winner, with the catchiest vocal hook on the album – and that’s not an easy contest – and some great, hypnotic build ups.

“Confessions of a Flesh Eater” rules too, some awesome lyrics there – in fact the whole album has awesome lyrics. These guys are really into demonic mysticism and occult stuff, and while I won’t pretend to be a know-it-all about this stuff, it really is very well written, and every song tells a great epic story. “The Transit of Venus” is the album’s “epic,” although really half the songs on this damn thing are epic-length and format, so it’s really just a slightly longer version of most of the stuff you’ve already heard. It’s a great song though, with a real dramatic build and some haunting female vocals sharing the stage with Dwyer’s air-raid siren howling.

I am just in love with this. Vulvagun has a hell of a dumb name, but the music is some of the best out there, with conviction, epic scope and a huge hook factor giving them a big edge over almost every other new band coming out today. And to think this is just a debut album? Insane! Imagine what these guys will be doing in a few albums. Wayne Dwyer and his crew of metal mercenaries have put out one of my favorite 2011 metal albums and I cannot wait to hear more from this bunch. Superb.

Entrancing desert mysteries - 75%

Radagast, December 5th, 2011

As far as misleading names go, it’s right up there with Tommy “Tiny” Lister and Orwell’s Ministry of Love; Vulvagun may conjure images of a snickering pornogrind band but, as evidenced on their classy debut release ‘Cold moon over Babylon’, the truth could hardly be further removed. Rather, the Aussies have delivered an epic, dark power/thrash metal offering that blends its demonology-derived lyrics with Middle Eastern musical cues to create a finely-crafted and highly impressive piece of work.

Sharing some ground (as well as the contribution of bass player Evan Harris) with Black Majesty, their sound is in places reminiscent of some of the progressive power metal bands from their homeland. But while the songs are uniformly long, intricate and clearly carry the air of being properly composed rather than born of jams, Vulvagun stay comfortably out of pure progressive territory. The impressive instrumental talents on display are there to serve the songs, and the drawn-out track lengths are due to expansive atmospheric sections outside the main structures rather than showcases for instrumental gymnastics.

Wayne Dwyer’s operatic vocals contribute greatly to the theatrical atmosphere on the CD, staying below falsetto and instead performing in a soaring, Dickinson-inspired manner. Dramatic Gregorian choir vocals also crop up throughout the CD to add extra texture, and are one of a few touch points Vulvagun have with Iced Earth.

As noted, the CD exists in the power/thrash DMZ, so several of the songs naturally feature breakneck galloping riffs, and the lead guitar really is scintillating in places – perhaps most notably on “Union of the snake”, which boasts an intricate, uplifting solo section, probably the best among several competitors. Just as prevalent though are the snaking midtempo riffs that many would no doubt describe as sounding “Egyptian”. Inaccurate as that probably is, these parts of the CD certainly paint pictures of sweeping sandstorms over desert cities, and while some may find the whole routine a little played out in this day and age, if you are properly attuned to this sort of thing it really draws you in to the detailed stories being chronicled.

Also contributing to the Middle Eastern ambience is the presence of several extended introductions and bridges comprising subtle, breathy keyboard arrangements and chiming clean guitars and chapman stick interludes which do well to substitute for bouzoukis, sazlar and the like. All this goes to show the singular vision that has been applied to the creation of these songs – although there is no overriding story to the lyrics, there is a unifying concept in place and the songs walk the same winding streets to form a cohesive whole.

It would be unfair to say that Vulvagun are writing to formula, as the songs 12 tracks on ‘Cold moon over Babylon’ are far more than mere repetitions of one another, though if there is a downside to the CD it is perhaps that none of them really speak with an authoritative voice of their own. As part of such a singular body of work, particular tracks tend not to stand out, and while a rich tapestry is no doubt woven, some flashes of individual brilliance are perhaps lacking.

With that said though, the 9-minute, pre-outro, closer “The transit of Venus” deserves special mention for its outstanding contribution. It begins, by now unsurprisingly, on a soothing intro that lattices with a bass-backed vocal section and gradually transitions into a steady midtempo build. Soft female vocals duet with Dwyer as the song slowly increases in heaviness before exploding into a massive solo section that climaxes superbly before passing the torch to an elegant piano piece. From here the guitar slowly builds back in before the choir vocals make a return and the song reaches a sudden, jarring conclusion.

Maybe ‘Cold moon over Babylon’ could do with a few more stand-out songs like this one to break up the steady flow from time to time, but it remains a high-quality, often hypnotic, debut CD from an exciting newcomer. The band name may be as inappropriate as a conga line at a funeral, but if given the chance the music really speaks for itself.

(Originally written for http://www.http://metalcdratings.com/)

Weird name, great debut. - 77%

AnalogKid, June 9th, 2011

At first when I saw the name Vulvagun pop up on my promo list, I skipped it with a look of disgust (really, with a name like that, what was I to think?). Later however, I happened to see them labeled as power metal- prompting another look and a sample listen, which impressed me suitably. I'm glad to say now that I made an error, and that no one should be thrown off by the strange name of the band (though I would like to know why the band chose it for themselves).

Vulvagun is a young and rather ambitious young metal outfit from Melbourne, Australia. Though labeled as power metal, I would hesitate to describe their music as just that. Mixing elements of USPM with a dash of prog and a slab of thrash, Vulvagun produces a heavy and darkly shaded album of twisting harmonies and thundering riffs. "Cold Moon Over Babylon" sure took its sweet time growing on me, but now that it has, I find myself coming back to it many evenings when I have time for dedicated listening. I say this because if there's one thing that I've learned about Vulvagun, it's that they have composed a very thick and chewy sort of album.

Vocalist Wayne Dwyer's commanding shout combined with the chunky riffing creates a dramatic atmosphere that lends itself very well to the lyrical theme of the album. I call this album ambitious because the band undertakes a very dark and solemn theme on their first outing: The Lesser Key Of Solomon, a mythical text on demonology. Never mind undertake, these guys succeed in being taken seriously with mythological subjects in the way that groups like Virgin Steele do (and perhaps more). Sometimes dark, sometimes mysterious, and rarely dull, the material here is rare. Really, I think that the only thing lacking for this band is pulling everything together and providing listeners with a little more melody. On the other hand, songs like "Malachi" and the title track deliver quite satisfyingly, and indicate just what the band is capable of.

However, I don't think that this diminishes the appeal of "Cold Moon Over Babylon" much at all. While not a very accessible album, it is well worth the reward of repeated listens. The most surprising thing about this work is its maturity level, as it sounds like a band that has dropped half a dozen releases and is moving on to something more grand. I don't know how much more I can say about this record, but it's well worth a try. Vulvagun isn't playing with the kids here, this is a well-developed piece of work with great depth.

Originally written for www.blackwindmetal.blogspot.com/