03 April 2014

[Review] Villagers Of Ioannina City - Riza

The other day, I went to visit Thanos for some beers. When I got to his place, he had just downloaded a new album from a Greek band, called Villagers Of Ioannina City. He suggested to give it a couple of spins, so I can also take a taste of Greek traditional music since I have never heard of anything similar. I didn’t know what to expect of course. After a small intro, a song called “Echoes” kicked in. Among the conventional “rock instruments”, here it was standing proud… a clarinet. I’ll be damned!

Playing a kind of music I’ve never heard before. It was so strange but in the same time I felt really attracted to it. When I listened to the polyphonic part, I was in love. What kind of sorcery is this, I asked myself.

In the end of the evening, I took the album with me and I have listened it fiercely since then. Thanos translated the lyrics to me, leading me to a deeper understanding and emotions. I also invested some time in checking the original songs that these guys transfered to us today.

Before anything else, I have to state that I’m German. I have no connection to Epirus or Greece in general. Don’t know anything about the Greek traditional music. My only connection is tsipouro. A holy drink I might say. But beware, the pure one. Not the one that some infidels drink, polluted with anise which is quite similar to this stupid ouzo. Nemesis is coming for you, my friends!

Thus said, I must confess that “Riza” is one of the most interesting, intriguing music I have listened for some time now. Probably because is something completely new to my ears. A perfect balance between traditional and contemporary, old and new. Even without knowing the background of the music or what the lyrics’ meaning is, you can feel the music calling you.

V.I.C, as Thanos stated and even with my restricted knowledge I agree, approached their roots with respect. They studied them well and treated them as something sacred. But they are also well-educated when it comes to “contemporary heavy rock”. And their experiment was successful not because they mixed their two main influences (excuse my generalization) but because they made them their own songs. And that's the whole point here. They didn't strip them, they didn't alienate them or cut their roots, on the contrary they enriched them with their own touch, feelings and experiences.

I wonder why anyone before them, haven't done something similar. I mean a lot of musicians and bands, have incorporated a lot of eastern/oriental traditional elements in their music. But I have never found something like this. And believe me I searched a lot.

Some of the songs standing out for me is “Krasi”-talking about the pain of love, “Jiannim”- the pain of emigrating (Thanos that's for you), the Monkey3-ish “Ti kako” and last but not least the epic, “St. Triad”, a medley of three songs reaching 10 minutes in duration and where I sense some Tool to be honest. The magnificent clarinet of Epirus prevailed!

All in all, “Riza” is a straight A. V.I.C are damn good musicians; they praised their roots, evolved them and brought them on the frontline once again. And I’m sure their ancestors are proud of what these guys have done. No doubt about that!

I have only two concerns regarding V.I.C. I’m not sure how much their music will be accepted outside of Greece. Definitely they had an impact on me but given the fact that we’re dealing with something not so familiar, it might drag some people away (we're living in the age of internet after all, where for a lot of people two minutes are enough to reject a band). And it’s a pity.

Secondly, I don’t know what the future will be for V.I.C., how they will evolve and what they have in mind next. I’d be curious though to listen some completely theirs compositions in the same style. I don’t know, for the time being they successfully achieved their goals and that means a lot.

From what I learned (and saw on Youtube) their gigs must be something else. So I hope you guys to tour Europe soon. Or maybe I should visit your region… Anyway, I’m going to learn some (if not all) of the lyrics, just to be prepared for the party..

If you want some true back to the roots heavy rock, then “Riza” is the deal…. And one suggestion to any fellow doomsters out there, be sure to check some lament songs of Epirus. Doom in its primitive, stripped-down, soulful form. Powerful!

"Eho zali, zali sto kefali, exo zourla sto myalo
 pezoun ntefia ante kai klarina, Ipirotiko skopo"

Long live Epirus! Long live clarinet! Long live Villagers Of Ioannina City!
by Bjorn

You can download it for free, buy it in CD or vinyl format from their bandcamp.

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