John Becker's solo project entitled Vaskula began as a solo post-punk and new wave genre. From 2009 - 2016 Becker lead Chicago progressive metal band Austaras, so during 2012 he took some time to expand his writing and from there Vaskula began adding more and more artists to mold the album Cycles.
“Cycles I” is an ethereal, setting the stage song. I can feel the solemness and sacredness with the church bells. You can feel the labor of love and organic nature of the process of Becker's intention being personified within this first melody.
“Golden” is in the opening compendium within the album, and it starts with solo guitar and it begins to crescendo outward with synths, electronics and drums building up. This five-minute cinematic track is the opening and introduction to the rest of the album - a taste of what you will experience throughout.
“Time & Fate” transitions to something much more grounded, reminiscent of Kings of Convenience with the vocals. The percussion feels more of the center stage along with the vocals. A sprinkling of electric keyboard but "the first night of winter," lingering in the lyrics set that pensive mood.
The next three songs in the album are genre-bending and style defining. From electronic (think Stranger Things theme) to piano and flute ballad in “Cycles II” and ‘80s pop electronica synth in “Coalesce.” Each of these three bring a unique voice to the band. “Coaelesce” especially stands out as a unique guitar heavy solo and still makes it approachable. For me, it was a bit jarring with the variations, but for listeners that want a full breadth and complex hearing of a band's full expression will enjoy it.
“Cycles I,” “Cycles II” and “Cycles III” are my favorite songs on the entire album. It really captures the theme of the album with the other songs being the micro-narratives that appear throughout life. “Looking Glass” and “By the Moonlit Sky” are the more pensive, slow, and ballad songs that are similar to a more refined “Golden” and “Coalesce” that we could hear earlier in the album.
This ambitious project spearheaded by John Becker felt like a homage to the ‘80s, new wave and indie metal all rolled into one. A true genre-bender that allows for the complexity of the instrumentals and talent of the ways these artists come together shines through.
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