In art, there’s this unspoken thing that when someone asks you what you thought of something and you reply “It was interesting”, they often assume that’s the socially polite way of saying “I didn’t like it”. Allow me to come out of the gate and say that Void of Polarity XI:XI, the new album by STAVO is interesting, and I loved it. Guitarist Dan Staversky, bassist Sam Klotz, drummer John Rolland, and lead vocalist, and keyboardist Sharon Kaplun have crafted something that felt akin to a rock opera, or something of a major theatrical or epic event. Epic in the sense of scope because it is a concept album through and through, but is so fearless about it.
Following the story of a woman named Indigo and her journey of self-discovery away from the corporate mundane life structure through spiritualism, challenges, and the involvement of a mysterious Council of Light, the album commits so wholeheartedly on this premise in a way that’s refreshing when quite often there are many “concept albums” that might feature some occasionally repeated leitmotifs or a reference to a lyric or so and call it a “universe” or a “story”. That is not the case here. It is a sprawling narrative and very much in a three-act structure. It even begins with an overture (“Disciplined Dreams”) that really sets the stage for what’s to come sonically. It’s really beautiful how wholly unique and thought out this vision is.
Sharon Kaplun is a relatively new addition to the band, and I can see why she’s a perfect fit. There’s something about her vocal performance that feels ethereal, otherworldly. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of the David Bowie musical “Lazarus” and how that was the story of self-actualization in a harsh world that took the life of its lead, but here, it’s more uplifting by the end, but the turbulence you feel during Indigo’s struggles in the middle feel real and are treated with a level of importance that never devolves into melodrama. You can feel the band really telling themselves, we have to craft sounds that live up to these ideas and there’s plenty of experimentation that had me surprised across its intense but never overlong nearly hour runtime.
The interludes with the Council of Light are haunting and evocative and help flesh out this world they’re building, and Indigos war within herself to break free of what’s holding her back crafted by the world at large, but perpetuated as the norm by herself too will no doubt leave an impression with those similarly held back by the system itching to break free. This is an album for dreamers and it will transport you someplace new.
My only major criticism is that maybe a track or two could have been trimmed because the narrative wouldn’t have lost any less of its power and I actually wish there was an outro instrumental similarly to the opening, but in its own right, it’s a gorgeous vision of worlds we live in and worlds we want to go to.
by Wyatt Kennedy