As Vukovi’s guitarist Hamish Reilly says “There’s not a lot of atonal stuff on our record. I guess I’d call what we do melodic heavy pop-rock.”

Personally, I’d go one further and start any description of Fall Better with “pop”, given how strongly front-and-centre Janine Shilstone’s vocals are, and how pure breathy-bubblegum-pop her sound is.

High-register, light and super-clean and singing consistently catchy, flowing lines similar to Robyn, any of these choruses would sound at home on mainstream radio.

Most of Fall Better wouldn’t sound put of place on an early Pink record, particularly ‘Play with me ‘cos I can take it’. Although musically the song has a Motorhead-meets-Fear Factory sort of vibe, the chord structure is still friendly on the ear.

Taken as a whole, the album is heavier than you would expect from pop-rock; but as far as metal goes, it is pretty much the most easy-listening metal I have come across, bringing Evanescence to mind. As “metal” goes, ‘Fall Better’ is about as far away from the heaviness, double-kicking, time-signature-bending, screaming and guitar-led prog musicianship of Jinjer as you can get.

This isn’t a complaint and nor is it to say that Vukovi have any pretensions of being the next Opeth, Slayer or Iron Maiden – they simply want to write good songs – and seem to have made a conscious decision on this album to sacrifice some of the aggression and ballsiness of the sound of their eponymous first album to maximise the impact of their stand-out best feature, which is undoubtedly the vocals.

Rather than being “metal” throughout, many of the songs contain a short “metal” instrumental break; the heavy riff throughout ‘Run_Hide’ being one notable exception.

A lot of the easiness of the sound is down to how compressed the guitars are and subtly-mixed the bass is – squashing the dynamics and making the music much more akin to electronic, synth-driven music. Electronic and triggered drum sounds add significantly to this effect, to the point where my standout track, ‘Aura’ sounds like Pendulum, and has the uplifting energy of Sophie and the Giants, with a lyrical positivity that isn’t found in many other places on Fall Better: “Don’t be scared / you’re not alone / we’re weirdos too”.

The synths that permeate the record give many of the tracks a late-80’s pop sound – the chorus of ‘Behave’ could be the long lost sister of an early Madonna chorus.

Musically, ‘I’m Sorry’ could be Oceansize (or even Band of Horses, if the guitars were mixed differently).

I wish I had caught Vukovi at Leeds festival last year to see how they present these songs live, as I guess that producer Bruce Rintoul put a lot of work into making the material for this album into very radio-friendly, internally consistent product, perhaps at the expense of showcasing more of the musicianship and straight rocking which Vukovi definitely have in their locker.

While personally I wouldn’t call Fall Better “metal”, I would certainty say that it does what it does very well.

Vukovi: Fall Better – Out Now (VKVI Records)



Chris Oliver

I've been playing bass guitar and guitar for over half my life. I last played bass in in a band called Electromotive and as a singer-songwriter I have written songs about cheese and vajazzles (separate songs!). I started out listening to 60s, 70s and 80s rock as a kid and I was in to grunge and U.S. punk and ska in the 90s. Since then, I've broadened my tastes and I like the best of all styles of music, even country. I've been writing for Silent Radio since it started.