Up until about a month ago I only really liked three Greek bands: black metal group Rotting Christ, the legendary Aphrodite’s Child, and a hard rock outfit called Nightstalker.
Well, I can now add a fourth, Villagers of Ioannina City, a progressive, folk-rock five-piece from Epirus in north-central Greece.
The VOIC discography is not thick, two albums and two EPs over the past five years, but good things come in small packages. This is a tracklist full of amazing songs and thought-provoking musical arrangements.
What sets VOIC apart from the mass of current European prog-rock acts is the way they fuse their heavy space-rock stylings with the traditional sounds of Greek folk music.
Alongside the deft lead guitar work, haunting vocals and driving rhythm section the band uses the clarinet, flute, bagpipe, drones and a traditional Balkan flute called the Kaval. The first album Riza (Root in Greek) is heavy on the clarinet with the vocals in Greek, the effect is incredible; the 2019 record Age of Aquarius is more rock-oriented with English lyrics and a more continental feel, though it retains the same feel as VOIC earlier sounds.
I actually prefer Riza in many ways, even though I cannot speak Greek. The new album has that “English as a second language” feel in the lyrics; I mean to say that the new songs, while excellent sound a tiny bit wonky as the lyrics don’t make much sense, even for psychedelic rock.
The words, however, do not drag Age of Aquarius down and in parts, they are profound and moving, when the YouTube algorithm threw up the album onto my feed late one Saturday night I was stunned at first listened and stayed up way past my bedtime listening to it over and over.
While not the most productive band on earth, VOIC has won a new fan with their eclectic sound, and it is worth noting that their page on YouTube seems to have nothing but praise and positive comments from lovers of folk-rock the world over and aficionados of that heavy, stoner sound.