Our Daily Bread 440: Vukovar ‘The Great Immurement’

April 21, 2021

ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

Vukovar ‘The Great Immurement’
(Other Voices Records) 23rd April 2021

In the metaphorical (and actually quite literal) wake of last year’s chthonian mini-opus The Colossalist, Vukovar now bring us the second chapter of their most recent incarnation and equally as consumed with vague auguries of fallen empire and gothic yearned romanticism, The Great Immurement.

In an atmospheric sonic vision of Bosch’s triptychs, this latest (the 9th album proper) work marks the second in a triumvirate of albums under the ‘Eternity Ends Here’ series (The Colossalist being the opening account in this saga). As with the previous industrial, post-punk and spiritual hungered epic, The Great Immurement pays homage to the dearly departed; featuring as it does the final song that the group’s co-conspirator of recent years and inspiring guide Simon Morris recorded with them. As a codex, nee mini-requiem, that last impassioned-esoteric-pop-song-hidden-in-a-mire, ‘Cement & Cerement‘, is a brutalist romantic anthem from the crypt of mental fatigue: pitched somewhere between Joy Division and Alan Vega catching a lift on Death In June’s vapour. Morris committed suicide in 2019 but his spirit continues to affect the band; looming large over both this and the last album. If you ever need to know just how influential but also how personal his death was for Vukovar, who’d managed to corral the much-venerated underground figure (notably for his instigation of The Ceramic Hobs) into their ranks, please take time out to read, one of the founding members of this pyre of a band, Dan Shea’s stark but intimate account of their friendship (an account the Monolith Cocktail published back in 2020; coincidently just a week before lockdown in the UK).

Morris may very well have been part of Vukovar’s constantly imperiled lineup if he hadn’t decided to vanish and leave this mortal realm as he did. His involvement was part of one of many changes in the band’s fortunes. Pressing forward though, constant warden and co-founder Rick Clarke is not only joined by another Hob and oft collaborator, Jane Appleby, but once more embraces his foil Dan Shea, who for various reasons in a fraught dynamic left to pursue other projects, notably, with fellow Vukovar stalwart (though missing from this lineup) Buddy Preston, forming the low-rent, lo fi bedsit synth Beauty Stab duo. In what is a convoluted historiography and rock family tree nightmare, and in what maybe seen as a case of ‘pop eating itself’ Meta, the neu- Vukovar inception actually cover one of Beauty Stab’s anthems, ‘O Eden’. Adding a certain gravitas and making a last supper out of the original, it now kind of makes sense as a Vukovar song that never was. Both versions are great it must be said, though the Stab’s was more Soft Cell, whilst this appropriation is more OMD misty march of yearned reverence; swaddled by a shapeless noise and opportune stabbed high piano notes: still bloody magnificent.

Followers of the blog may recognize the name of this latest waltz-at-the-end-of-time, The Great Immurement being also the title of Clarke’s voyeuristic supernatural peephole entombed book, which we serialized during the pandemic nightmare that was 2020. Though separate from the album’s themes and concepts, an illustration (etched by the celebrated Andrzej Klimowski; a great coup for Clarke and the band that was) from that sordid travail dons the cover – as it also did The Colossalist.

The Great Immurement, as the title suggests, denotesa certain sense, anxiety of confinement from which to break free. And so most of the album’s music seems to smoother, even overpower with an echo chamber of reverberated voices, malingering traces of spirits, competing opinions and fallen angels. There’s even a fallen ‘Icarus’ figure, trapped in multiple veils of sorrow, industrial fizz and vapours; with a searching, decried vocal attempting to escape the ether.

In the feted mode of spiritualism, Vukovar turn to the Psalms; another cry of freedom soundtracked by pleaded despair, communal deliverance and a brilliant stark but intimate voice that channels Ian Curtis, Ian McCulloch and Charlie Megira. An estranged linger of religion permeates the entire album in that kind of post-punk battle between haunted Catholic gilded guilt and alternative pathways of spiritual guidance, bordering on the occult. The sort of practice that Coil, Fritch and Current 93 had a kink for. It won’t come as a surprise to find out that Vukovar recorded a collaborative album with the Current’s Michael Cashmore (2018’s Monument), or that Coil, and the affiliated Tibet and Balance all prove an obvious inspiration. They even re-purpose Current 93’s ‘Rome For Douglas P’; turning the source into a vortex vision of Suicide on a quickened sordid rock ‘n’ roll charge with the renamed ‘When Rome Falls’: A real crushed but energetic industrial soul boy vocal is echoed in a backbeat tunnel, as the funeral pyre flames rise over a new Rome.

In the middle of this vacuum you might well hear the lingers and outright borrowing of a Siouxsie’s Banshees, early Cure, Christian Death, Talk Talk and even a less pompous Sisters Of Mercy. Yet Vukovar don’t do things the easy way; contorting, obscuring and vaporising the melodies, riffs and the niceties, even vocals as much as possible without losing the intrinsic value of their message and new romantic lament. True confessionals, aspirations and pained release caught up in a venerable maelstrom, Vukovar’s middle passage of ambitious anguished caustic industrial soul, experimentation and empire crumbling Cassandra oracles continue to impress; ringing even more inspiration from the macabre and mentally gruelling. We can only await the final piece of this fated triptych with baited breath.

The Vukovar Cannon As Featured On The Monolith Cocktail:

2020: Cement & Cerement  (here)

2020: The Colossalist’  (here)

2019: Cremator (here)

2018: Monument (here)

2018: Infinitum (here)

2017: Puritan (here)

2017: The Clockwork Dance  (here)

2017: Fornication  (here)

2015: Emperor  (here)

Also…

Rick Clarke’s The Great Immurement

Opening Chapters (here)

Parts 4-6 (here)

Parts 7-9 (here)

Parts 10-12 (here)

Parts 13-15 (here)

Parts 16-18 (here)

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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