After listening to “Solace”, Venues’ sophomore album, it is hard to believe that at a recent point in time, the fate of the band hung in uncertainty. The brand new 10-track release is a catchy and powerful celebration of the band’s triumph against potentially career-ending challenges. The listener can hear that each member of Venues is just ecstatic to be creating this record; the personality of the guitars and drums gushes through the soundscape in each track, and the vocals are executed with a confidence and color that could only blossom from a place of comfort and resolve. With that consideration, it’s very easy to understand why the album was called “Solace”. The band has found their groove, and they’re rocking their hearts out, all the way from opening track “Razorblade Teeth” to “Mountains”, a massive ending track that is sure to procure an anthemic response from fans at future concerts.
“Solace”, in general, is considerably heavier than 2018’s “Aspire”. Slamming riffs and mosh-worthy sequences pounce on you throughout the album with ferocity. There was definitely a more metal-oriented focus on “Solace” than there was on the previous release, which could be said to have had more pop-centric themes. Some tracks have that ferocious metalcore attitude that you would normally hear from bands like Killswitch Engage. “Down Below” begins with such a feeling, really encouraging the listener to become involved in the energy that gushes from the band. Such moments of heaviness, like the thrashing rhythm placed right in the middle of “Whydah Gally”, are great additions to the sound of Venues. Other songs, referring again to “Down Below” however, look back towards the feel of the previous album. Its chorus is about as close to the pop-punk style as they get, and despite it actually being my least favorite song, I can still appreciate that the band is having a lot of fun producing tracks like this. What I did enjoy about this track was the highly entertaining guitar solo. It’s a real rock and roll performance, and I’m sure it’ll put a smile on most listeners’ faces.
It’s also great to know that the band went back to Cristoph Wieczorek (Annisokay). He knows the band well, and understood exactly what was needed to be done in order to really beef up the band’s heaviness from the last album, whilst still allowing the genuine Venues sound to emanate from the tracks. In terms of production, this album is truly an upgrade.
Now, it’s time to talk about Daniela ‘Lela’ Gruber, the new vocalist that has taken over the clean melodies for Venues. The shoes she had to fill were huge, but it’s safe to say that she has captured the hearts of the fans, as well as new listeners. When the band released “Rite of Passage”, the first single off of “Solace”, it was clear that fans were impressed with the band’s choice for the position. Her powerful voice, impressive range, and natural ability to fit perfectly into the tracks had everyone convinced that this was a major step forward for the band. According to the band, halfway through the first rehearsal, they knew for certain that Gruber was the one to be at the front of the group.
Her presence throughout the album is undoubtedly the standout component. Her melodies are catchy and compliment the harsh vocals from Robin Baumann really well. The band doesn’t waste any time introducing Gruber to the listener, either. Within the first minute of “Razorblade Teeth”, her melodies are powerfully delivered, and I quickly understood her intentions for the rest of the album. “Shifting Colours”, for me, is the track that contains Gruber’s catchiest chorus. The mixture of high and powerful notes, the punching out of each syllable from each word and the melismatic ends to some of those words creates a superbly memorable tune. After listening to the song once, I had the chorus stuck in my head for days. This track also has a massive metalcore sequence that demands you to bang your head along with it. It’s even got some filthy, yet very well-placed pinch harmonics from the guitars, for you evil little metal lovers.
“Rite of Passage” shows off Gruber’s ability to hit some staggeringly high notes with power, and her affinity for bluesy singing is apparent during “Our Destiny”. There is this sense of maturity about her performance, as if she were a veteran vocalist, present in the metal scene for years. Speaking of which, her integration into this album is so seamless that it sounds as if she has been a part of Venues since its inception.
Listening through this album multiple times, I began to feel that there was a more deliberate and thought-out melody for each clean section. Gruber didn’t just ‘wing it’, it feels to me that she put her heart and soul into each word, each phrase, and as a result I was engaged from the start of the album to the finish. Nearly every single track has a memorable and distinct hook or chorus that stands out on its own, more so than the catchier moments on “Aspire”.
The symbiosis between Gruber’s clean performances and Baumann’s harsh vocals is incredibly strong. Whether it’s a call and response between the two, or one vocalist gives the other space to really impose a certain theme or musical idea, there is a sense of teamwork that is almost tangible for the whole length of the album.
Baumann’s harsh vocals also must be commended. His vocals have improved since “Aspire”, sounding heavier and more emotionally driven throughout most of the album. The range of his vocals is also on display, moving from his trademark gravelly growls to a higher and more raspy scream. This is best shown at the beginning of “Whydah Gally”. His pronunciation is also seriously impressive. I almost never needed to refer to the lyrics to understand him, and I felt that this further improved the overall delivery of the themes within “Solace” between him and Gruber. It’s also awesome to hear the inclusion of that rap-infused yelling on “Down Below” that was present in the previous album.
The guitar work in this album sounds like Valentin Hahnemann, another new addition to the band, and Constantin Ranis had a lot of fun during production. Whether it’s carrying the melodic progressions of the chorus, chugging away at the little slams here and there, or busting out some diverse and colourful solos, the guitars are just as fun to listen to as the vocal parts from Gruber. My initial concern for this album was that Gruber’s appearance would overshadow any other melodic contribution from the band, but my concerns were completely unfounded. The guitars are given plenty of space to breathe and express some really fun and engaging musical ideas, and this is either in partnership with the vocals, or completely independent. “Into the Fire” has some of my favourite guitar riffs, at times taking on a kind of aggression that one could find in the “Horizons” or “Deep Blue” albums from Parkway Drive. The best example of this is the short but punchy metalcore sections just before the choruses. This track also holds a magnificent guitar solo, brought in by Gruber singing “just let it burn” at an impressively high pitch. The bridge section in “Mountains” also contains some blistering riffs, potentially the most metal sounding in the whole album, but undoubtedly the most impressive display of technical work.
Dennis Vanhöfen, who is in charge of drumming responsibilities, makes the absolute most of the tracks in this album. I felt so much energy coming from him in this album, as he barely lets himself have a rest, apart from a few softer moments here there, such as in the verses for “Uncaged Birds”. The drums are mixed in with a dense and heavily packed sound, with a powerful bass drum that carries the rhythm confidently throughout “Solace”. “Deceptive Faces” contains some awesome drum work from Vanhöfen; a mixture of technical patterns, standard rock beats, and some really impressive and diverse fills to thicken up the variation of the sound. Even the bridge of this track is a slow but colossal moment that feels quite different from the rest of the album, yet adds to the potential for this track to be a fan favorite for years to come.
Speaking of “Deceptive Faces”, the synth layers weaved into this track are a fun little addition. The introduction to the song sees the synth marching out some ominous arpeggios, reminding me of some tracks from the early era of We Came as Romans. The style and textures of the synth then change as we progress through the track, and at one point the synth slithers across the soundscape from left to right, as if something is crawling across your brain. This is the kind of captivating use of the synth layers that you will find across “Solace”, little things like this that add to the overall feel of the song. In most occasions the synth is just an extra layer to increase the sonic atmosphere, but at other times it stands out almost as if it had a mind of its own, possessing a personality in the form of a melody in the foreground that compliments the rest of the track, such as in the second verse for “Shifting Colours” and in the bridge of “Uncaged Birds”.
Overall, it’s almost indisputable that “Solace” is better in every conceivable way than “Aspire”. Most notably, the addition of Gruber to the band has elevated venues to a new level. The production is more polished and powerful than the last, and the songwriting has more intelligence and substance to it. The composition is not pioneering in its design, but their utilization of certain elements in the right places is entertaining and engaging. The instruments are tight, and played with a ferocity that is only matched by the amount of fun the band seems to be having.
As mentioned in the beginning of this album, “Solace” is quite an appropriate name for this album. It sounds like Venues have hit their stride, they’ve found the sound they’ve been looking for. That’s success. For a band to deeply establish their identity and move forward as one complete group, that’s true solace.
Releasing On: August 27th, 2021
Released By: Arising Empire
- Daniela ‘Lela’ Gruber / Vocals
- Robin Baumann / Vocals
- Valentin Hahnemann / Guitar
- Constantin Ranis / Guitar
- Dennis Vanhöfen / Drums
- Razorblade Teeth
- Whydah Gally
- Rite of Passage
- Uncaged Birds
- Into the Fire
- Down Below
- Shifting Colours
- Our Destiny
- Deceptive Faces
“Solace” is a fantastic release from the German heavy hitters. Venues has brought together all of the elements in music that they love, and as a result a rich tapestry of metalcore and post-hardcore has been woven together for the listener. The addition of ‘Lela’, to the band as the clean vocalist and Valentin on the guitar has provided Venues with a new power to create some seriously catchy tracks. 10 tracks for this album is, quite frankly, not enough! With albums as fun, heavy and catchy as “Solace”, Venues will continue to ascend in the world of metal to the elite echelon where they most certainly belong.