Wow, if this isn’t the most amazing transformation these ears have witnessed for the past 15 years or so… Seriously, even Kafka himself would find it hard to come up with a bigger metamorphosis. One should really suspend his/her disbelief, though, to see the same act behind the music here; that same act who released the awfully boring rehashed modern 90’s groover “Prototype”, one of the worst “prototypes” of the Pantera and the Machine Head-produced originals; and the same act who later tried to jump on the nu-metal wagon with an equally as shameful sophomore effort, ”Oxygen” (stop breathing here, folks!)…
The year is now 2013, and the foursome led by the frontman Joe Varga (vocals and bass) are back into action, and not only that but they’re determined to become the spokesmen of the whole Metal movement.
One would immediately discard them, first based on their awful heritage, and second based on the pompous and pretentious album-title which screams “Manowar!” louder than a horde of England-invading Vikings… However, it’s probably the title itself which may arouse the fan’s curiosity to see if there’ something inside to justify it at least a little. After all, the guys have only been circling around the Metal previously; this time they may have decided to enter it; who knows…
It would be a real pity if the fanbase has dismissed this album due to the two aforementioned reasons. Because Varga and Co. have simply outdone themselves here… To those who have eventually decided to venture into it, make sure you grab your chairs tight: the opening riffs of “Beginning of the End” will throw you out of it; this is virtuous sweeping technicality which will overwhelm you throwing everything at you from the technical arsenal during just above 6-min, a relieving balladic interlude provided in the middle. The high level of musicianship is stunning everyone playing with the utmost precision and conviction, including the vocals of Varga which are on the moderately dramatic clean side this time, quite close to the tones of Dave Mustaine, not very adventurous, but confident enough to lead the technical riff-fest here. No trace of those awful quarrelsome aggro-shouts of old; thank God, or rather… thank Metal.
And this is just the beginning… fortunately not “of the end”. Comes “Gamera”, not promising much title-wise (how many of you remember the Japanese film about the gigantic turtle of the same name?), but carrying on unabated with the technical “massacre” which this time lasts for whole 8-min serving impetuous headbanging passages interlaced with vortex-like technical throw-ins pulling the listener into it the latter also bewitched by the excellent, both melodic and screamy, leads. Later on one will inevitably have a very good time with the never-ending flow of clever arrangements, stylish guitar duels, and more or less expected time-signatures and tempo-changes, not to mention the portion of great melodic leads again offered on almost every composition. All the way to the closer “Shark Attack” which begins quite misleadingly as a ballad before the thrashing ”carnage” starts abruptly to crush your skull with fast lashing guitars and some more immediate decisions which leave the highlight moments to the leads again those hitting the top here with some of the finest licks provided on the thrash metal scene recently.
And that’s it; six tracks clocking on just under 40-min; an impressive achievement coming from a least expected place/band on the metal map…
This is so incredible that some, especially those who were familiar with the band’s earlier catalogue, may give it another spin on the same day just to make sure that they haven’t dreamt it all. This is not only a radical transformation; this is consummate, intelligently-crafted, technical/progressive music which ranks right alongside pillars of the genre, like Megadeth’s “Rust in Peace”, Coroner’s “Mental Vortex”, Sieges Even’s “Life Cycle”, and Mekong Delta’s “Kaleidoscope”. On the other hand, listening to this, one can only wonder as to why the band wasted so much time back in the 90’s to blindly emulate the vogues of the era, obviously forcing themselves to come up with such ridiculously derivative music. Or, they have used the lengthy hiatus wisely, and have undergone a profound training in technical music performance somewhere deep in the Canadian North, under the careful guidance of ethereal Eskimo shamans…
The second chapter from the guys’ conquest of the Metal scene is a fact, released very soon after the album reviewed here. Logically, the title bears no surprises (“Return of the Metal”), and the music is a very faithful follow-up to the one presented on the first chapter; in other words, we have Technical Musical Mastery Part 2, with all the staple tools of the trade lined up in “full Metal jacket”. A word of wisdom to Varga and his gang, though: they may want to drop those childish album-titles which may continue to be the main reason why a certain part of the metal fanbase would never be bothered to check out their output. So how will Episode 3 be titled in the same train of thought? “Power of the Metal”? Anyone?
Canada had some really noteworthy representatives on the technical/progressive thrash metal field in the past: Voivod, above all, but also Savage Steel, Dyoxen, Obliveon, DBC, Disciples of Power, early Annihilator (of course), Horfixion in the not so distant past… From all those it’s only Voivod who still keep the flame of the innovative and the original alive; but now they have very able assistants: almost completely unknown “ugly ducklings” from the 90’s post-thrashy underground have made a major step into becoming the “beautiful swans” of the contemporary metal scene; a major statement of intent being the abum here which is not all the band has to say, obviously. Are we talking the best kept secret on the field at present? You better believe it… and track it down. Quick.
Varga’s new album, “Return of the Metal,” is well titled because it’s a really heavy, progressive-style record highlighted by crushing drums on every track. Dan Fila pounds the drums like the kit owes him money and vocalist/bassist Joe Varga really unleashes his vocal style, which at times has an uncanny similarity to King Diamond, especially on the opening track, “Three Section Staff.” Guitarists Sean Williamson and Adam Alex round out the Canadian quartet that is coming off an extended hiatus. But with two album releases in the last two years, Varga is set to take a run at claiming what’s theirs and bringing their brand of slamming heavy metal to the masses.
Hot on the heels of 2013’s ENTER THE METAL is another 6 pack dose of Varga Metal. RETURN OF THE METAL continues on where we left off less than a year ago with some heavy and complex music filled with double kicks and guitar solo’s a plenty.
As with the last one, RETURN OF THE METAL is just that, a return to the Metal. Many of today’s so-called Metal bands are anything but. I will not get into genre’s or sub-genre’s but pure, basic Metal is what Varga is about. Some may label it Progressive Metal or what have you due to the complexity of the instrumentation and song structure but the bottom line is it’s pure Heavy Metal at the end of the day. There are some Thrash overtones in a few places making it a very interesting album to listen to especially for those of us that grew up in the 80’s. It reminds us of discovering those Thrash albums by a band like Death Angel or Slayer. There are similarities to early Megadeth on “Money Talks” especially in Joe’s vocals where he sounds like early Mustaine with some of the phrases and words. Add in the guitar riffs and you have one killer disc.
As a new fan to Varga I can easily recommend you check them out. This is pure Metal, Canadian style. Crank it and enjoy!
Canadian Metallers Varga, returned with the excellent EP, Enter the Metal, chock full of tunes that reminded me how creative the Metal genre used to be. While never officially parting ways, the band went on a hiatus in the late nineties that lasted until 2013’s comeback release. Return of the Metal is the next installment in the band’s acclaimed (so far) trio of EPs.
“Three Section Staff” kicks off the new EP with a heavy crunch that you immediately feel. The eight-minute plus epic is a beast for certain musically, but it’s fairly weak lyrically and it causes the song to lose some steam in my opinion. “After Life Comes” catches the trip though starting off with a killer bass riff and then thrashing and grooving its way through the thick wall of sound. “Money Talks” is a highlight here for sure with its myriad of heavy styles mashed into one. It’s flawlessly goes from super fast to super heavy to scaling the progressive mountains all while the raw and ugly vocals narrate the journey.
Return of the Metal feels a bit heavier and more progressive overall than it’s thrashier predecessor. In my opinion, that’s a good thing because its shows a different side of the band. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t drastically different, but it is different enough to keep you from calling the band a one trick pony or boxing them into a corner.
Canadian metal band VARGA hail from the late 80s, and “Return Of The Metal” is their fourth album (with the previous “Enter The Metal” having been released not even a year ago in October 2013.) The band brings a heavy sound that I can only really describe as “prog-thrash” with a nice modern sound and complex musicianship.
“Three Section Staff” kicks things off, with a heavy and almost dissonant sounding intro riff with some minor harmonies involved before breaking into a really heavy main riff. This feels more on the extreme end of the thrash spectrum, with plenty of mad riffs and quite a heavy sound. The vocals are quite good, with some deeper yet melodic moments that meet with HALFORD-esque higher screams later on. Plenty of different moments here, with meaty riff upon meaty riff and a nice variety of sounds going on, with a section that sounds like a brass instrument too. It is quite cool to see a band opening up an album with an 8 minute epic track, and they keep it interesting throughout.
“After Life Comes” gives us an awesome bass intro, with guitars feeding back over the top, before slamming into its mad main riff. This is another full on one, with lots of technical guitar playing and lengthy instrumental moments between vocals, with another cool bass moment later on as well.
“Disfigured Gargoyle” is another twisting and turning track with some really awesome bass playing on it with some great tense drumming too. There’s lot of great aggressive vocals on this one as well, meeting with the skillful guitars that with the band as a whole present a really tight sound.
“Evil Drifters” is yet another insane sounding track, with crazy scale riffage starting off the song, before it goes into heavy chugging afterwards, with a cool chorus layering vocals with a background guitar in a really cool way; there’s plenty of heaviness on this track as you’d come to expect by this point.
“Money Talks” kicks off with more of a grooving riff, but at 7 minutes long there’s plenty more on offer from this one, from speedy chugging riffs to the rounds of awesome solos throughout. This one has a nice tense pacing and some cool guitar harmonies too. This one was one of my highlights, with a lot to offer the listener even on album with a lot going on already.
“Far East Super Slaughter” finishes up the album with some more epic riffage, though not quite as long a song. This one has lots of really cool vocals, with a good sense of pacing throughout. It’s a good ending to the album, telling an interesting story lyrically and with a good amount of different riffs and moments too.
The production is pretty good, with a modern sound that keeps a bit of old school thrash in it. The mix is pretty good, the vocals and guitars in particular, and it’s nice to hear the bass which supports the drums and blends in well.
Overall, this is a really good release, with such a short time between releases, many bands fail to keep up the momentum so easily, but this one does, with lots of challenging playing and good songs throughout, performed well by a skillful band.