Danish-Swedish quartet VOLA made their first tour across the pond on the strength of their most recent album, Witness. Playing to a sold-out crowd (many of whom sang along to every song), VOLA delivered an up-close-and-personal example of what it’s like to see a stadium-worthy band in a small room. Even the music played during the band’s changeover (Karnivool and Oceansize) hinted at potentially seeing something relevant, as everyone in the venue squished their way closer to the stage in the minutes leading up to start time.
As the opening band, Earthside, performed, it felt like the venue was already at capacity. Earthside is a (somewhat) instrumental four-piece band performing a similar style of material to VOLA. Supporting their “All We Knew And Ever Loved” single (and upcoming album), the members of Earthside had just enough room to fit themselves and their gear onto the small stage. With a large LED television propped up in front of VOLA’s drum kit, Jamie Van Dyck, Ben Shanbrom, Frank Sacramone, and Ryan Griffin performed 45 minutes of impressive cinematic material. Their performance features professionally produced video clips showcasing orchestral arrangements featuring the Moscow Studio Symphony Orchestra, along with Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust and Daniel Tompkins of Tesseract singing on-screen behind them.
Part of that felt a bit weird, to be honest – seeing the band performing in front of videos of their guest vocalists – but it’s been done effectively by other bands in the past, and the musicality Earthside delivered could not be denied. They finished off their set with two heavy instrumental songs that saw Frank Sacramone jump into the crowd with a keytar as the song reached its apex. A new song called “We Who Lament” featured vocals by an Ottawa, Ontario artist Keturah, and it was done with no video of her. Once their set was finished, Jamie Van Dyck suggested that we were all in for a real treat, saying that VOLA played Montreal the night before and their performance was off the charts.
It felt like stagehands had no sooner finished tweaking a few things onstage as the lights went down. Asger Mygind (vocals/guitar), Martin Werner (keys), Nicolai Mogensen (bass), and Adam Janzi (drums) took the stage, cradled in thin upright strips of lighting arranged around them like a cage, surrounding them in occasional backlighting throughout their 90-minute performance. I’ll forego the journalism trope of comparing VOLA’s material to other bands here (a list of bands that would be long and rife with numerous masters of modern Prog) and go for descriptors like evocative, expansive, and musically proficient instead. Asger Mygind has an awe-inspiring vocal range, and he showed it off this evening over fifteen magical songs. A stand-out moment would be the quiet moments during “Enter” 2/3rds of the way through the set; impressive in the way it broke up the evening’s mood and tone in as much as how smooth his voice sounded after having already delivered an hour of heavier vocals.
Mygind expressed genuine gratitude at being on the road in North America and that the band was finally in Toronto. The band grooved together in synchronization repeatedly throughout their performance – keyboardist Martin Werner adeptly moving along to the beats set by Janzi as Morgensen and Mygind banged their heads – their unified momentum inspiring the Toronto crowd to mosh repeatedly throughout the show. When the band left the stage after “Smartfriend,¸ Adam Janzi stayed behind his drum kit and did an impromptu drum solo around the chants of “one more song” coming from the audience. We got two more songs as an encore before the band took to the centre of the stage, bowed, and waved at the crowd.
I went to this show knowing very little about VOLA. I streamed two songs before the gig, “Straight Lines” and “24 Light Years,” before packing up a camera body and heading to the show. To say I was impressed would be an understatement. VOLA put on one of the best shows I’ve seen. This gig was an evening I’ll reflect on down the road.
Leftover VOLA North American appearances are:
11/18 Chicago, IL – Beat Kitchen
11/19 Cleveland, OH – The Foundry
11/20 Baltimore, MD – Metro Gallery
11/22 Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus
Both VOLA and Earthside are on Mascot Records. Their albums are available for streaming and purchased as physical media online and in stores.
VOLA Setlist Toronto:
Stray the Skies
We Are Thin Air
Your Mind Is a Helpless Dreamer
These Black Claws
Head Mounted Sideways
Inside Your Fur