Vukovi – ‘Fall Better’

By Dave Stewart

Scottish natives Vukovi gave the alt-rock scene a stern shake back in 2017, dropping their debut self-titled record to rave reviews across the board. They perform on a seemingly effortless tightrope, with ballsy hard-hitting riffs and unapologetic pop-tinged vocals delivered with a level of intensity and clarity that bumped the bar up a few notches for all the other acts surrounding them.

Try to imagine what it might sound like if Skindred and Marmozets somehow fused together into one band, and what you’d hear in your head would be pretty close to how Vukovi sound. Big guitars, even bigger vocals and an underlying sense of gloom that’s as addictive as it is unnerving.

The strength of their debut made people unsurprisingly hungry for the follow up, and 2020 sees them unleash their sophomore record, ‘Fall Better’. Their balancing act has become more of an art form, and they’re demonstrating it masterfully. You couldn’t have asked for a better follow up record.

The album begins with a straight to the point statement of what’s about to unfold. “Strong language, dark themes and dirty fucking riffs.” This serves as their mission statement for the entire record, and the large majority of what follows falls under that umbrella as promised. Launching straight into ‘Violent Minds’, the band demonstrates that they’re picking up exactly where their debut left off – gritty and weighty guitar work, mammoth drums and the infectious, insatiable vocals of lead singer Janine Shilstone. Her use of falsetto is spine-tingling, sending goosebump-inducing shivers through your entire body with every well placed flourish, and strengthening the power of the punch tenfold. All this in one track, and there’s plenty more where that came from.

Vukovi manage to blend the darkness and light elements of their sound together with real finesse, creating a menacing but memorable kick that pummels the heaviest parts of their songs into your brain. ‘Aura’ does this by picking up the pace a touch, but doesn’t hold back on the filthy guitar tones or the catchy melodies as they fly at you from all angles. ‘Play With Me Cos I Can Take It’ is another fast mover as it races along at breakneck pace, only slowing down to deliver jaw-shattering blows with the addictive chorus. Title track ‘Fall Better’ is like an army of sledgehammers, their impact only mildly cushioned by Shilstone’s soaring voice. The vocals aren’t constant though, and a lot of those sonic blows connect with devastating effect.

There’s just so many standout moments here. The suspense building in ‘All That Candy’ that flows from angelic pulsing melodies into a grimace-inducing guitar explosion. The all out attack of ‘C.L.A.U.D.I.A’ and its balance of both lyrical and musical aggression with striking and captivating pop-inspired heaven. The moving, heart-wrenching cries of ‘I’m Sorry’, the tidal waves of emotion crashing through ‘Where Are You’, the electronic vibes of ‘White Lies’ that slowly evolve into what I can only describe as THAT riff. It was already obvious that Vukovi had tricks hidden up their sleeves, but ‘Fall Better’ has made it abundantly clear that they still have plenty more.

This band is trending upwards, and with releases of this quality, they will surely continue to do so. ‘Fall Better’ sits Vukovi very comfortably among the leaders of the pack in the current wave of alt-rock bands, and helps them do so with ease. Their angsty attitude and unfiltered vigour surges through the music, managing to do so with both biting rawness and exceptional clarity like the musical equivalent of having a party in the middle of a vicious bar brawl. It feels as though the record has been crafted with the live performance in mind, each song seemingly built to bring the roof down at whatever venue they’re gracing. A fun, powerful and polished follow up from one of Scotland’s finest up and comers.

DAVE STEWART

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