19 November 2014
Voices - London
Now here is something old but new at the same time, it is new due to it being a new release from Black Metal outfit voices; it is old as this band has some ex-members of Akercocke (this will be the only time I mention it). Now, when I first started to listen to this album I felt a familiarity in style and approach; once I saw who was involved I realised why. At one point, Akercocke were a band that was on heavy rotation at my place. But in 2012 when they announced they were heading their separate ways, it felt like they had been away for quite some time anyway. What I should have done at that point was start to find out what the members of the band were up to, then I could have be listening to their first album called 'From The Human Forest Create A Fugue Of Imaginary Rain' (that is something that I will still be doing later). However, it seems I have arrived late to the party. The main reason I picked up this album is that I found the cover really interesting, no other reason - I just liked the image. So with no knowledge of the sound, but with a little knowledge of the band members past it is time for 'London' to unleash its aura offense upon the world.
Starting off with an acoustic and moody "Suicide Note", the band gives a moody and unforgiving outlook of the modern world to humanity for digestion. The sorrow and despair that is on offer will have the listener in either raptor or confirming their own downward spiral. As introductions to albums go, it is one of the most effective I have heard this year. But if you have not heard this band before, it might lead you to a false sense of what they are about. However, they then unleash "Music For The Recently Bereaved" and it is good to have these guys back in my musical world. I have missed some heavy blast beats and riff attacks from the UK black/extreme metal scene. But it is not all about the riff, you have a discomforting middle bridge that gives way to a slow and smouldering assault on the audio senses. The progressive element of the music is also very interring to me here, the song does not stay in one form and the attack is always a present and clear threat, even with the piano outro and spoken word segment. After this is the short and sweet tune called “The Actress”, it is over far too soon for me but it is still a stunning piece that leads to “Vicarious Lover” that keeps sounds like a nuclear war, even when the clear guitar tone and vocals are at the forefront of the tune. Whilst starting faster, it does slow down and this does not detract from the fact this is a beautiful tune, once again it is ended by a spoken word piece which has a gentlemen and lady telling a story about London and the twisted scenes unveiled are strangely hypnotic. “Megan” is the fifth track and the band are once again aiming for the heart via the ear (and possible through the veins as well). It opens with a full on extreme metal attack, before breaking into a bridge which has elements for the listener to be lost in, the way the guitars swap sides in the stereo, the vocals of a man on the edge and some fantastic drumming. This brings us to a lull with strange noises and a high pitched sound that could be akin to tinnitus. At the point, the drums and the noise are the only thing until the drums fade to just the noise and the name Megan being repeated till the track ends.
“Imaginary Sketches of a Poisoned Man” has another brilliant and intense opening, it keeps getting heavier and heavier and then it has a brief trash break before the tidal wave of noise beings again. But just as your expecting it to go faster, it stops dead in its tracks. It is another number that I wish was longer, but only because I was enjoying the track so much. But I will admit that the way it finishes merges seamlessly into “The Antidote”, the atmospheric sounds and clear guitars, the slow drumming and cello start the song off as a brilliant broken mirror to “Imaginary Sketches of a Poisoned Man”. Over the next seven minutes, the band put you through the grinder. Slowly they build until the inevitable eruption of loud guitars and whilst the singing is still steady, the power of the band is showing the fury that they cultivated underneath that unsettling opening. In fact when the screams do start, it sort of seems like overkill; but that is a personal taste thing and does not take anything away from the song. Once again, it ends with another spoken word piece that links quite a lot of this record. “The Fucktrance” is just violent and noisy – it just mashes the listener into a pulp, keeps on kicking you when you are down and then does it all over again. It is the first song that is as manic at the start of the tune as it is towards the end – pure, untainted audio violence for the world to despair at. Of course, I love it! Next is “Hourglass” which starts off with an acoustic guitar, which then opens into a tune with a very heavy bass section, driving drums and some impressive riffs; all the while the acoustic guitar is playing the same simple tune, always playing. About half way through, we get the next spoken word piece which references the name Megan again. Then the acoustic guitar starts again with the band kicking in at the same time. It shows once again that this band is not just going to keep playing the same trodden black/extreme metal and that there is a desire for progression in the music as well. Following on is "The House Of The Black Light" which is a much more basic tune, straight forward, heavy and aggressive. Out of all the tunes so far, it is the one which is just alright. Nothing wrong with it, but after the last couple of numbers which has been out of this world it just does not quite reach those standards. That said it is still decent song.
Next is "The Final Portrait Of The Artist" which bring the spoken word narrative that has been running through this album. The music which is played in the background is not the real focus here, but the spoken word piece that is draped over this album is of a high quality - this piece is one of the most chilling and makes for uneasy listening. The performance gives way to "Last Train Victoria Line", another straight forward extreme metal song bemoaning if someone spreads their legs for a new partner like they did with the vocalist. As the song progresses, the despair at the thoughts of a lost lover dominate the tune and match the sickening and grotesque music that the band unleash onto the world. The penultimate tune is called "The Ultimate Narcissist" which seems to make the album complete for me, out of all the tunes on here it is the one I have came back to the most and it is also the one which mixes all the styles of Voices into one lump of acidic, demonic lump of metal brilliance. Ending the album is "Cold Harbour Lane" which guides the album home in a hail of slow, brooding and sinister noise that is the perfect foil to "The Ultimate Narcissist". It is a brilliant ending to this album.
This album has been something of a surprise for me - a surprise that I had not heard of the band earlier, a surprise about the band members and their collective musical pasts, a surprise about the album being their second release and also a surprise how good it is. For a while, extreme metal has lost a lot of its edge for me; not that the current crop of bands are not playing some quality releases, it’s just that my tastes have changed slightly (and I am also awaiting the next album from Wodensthrone). I think apart from Mantar, the extreme end of the musical spectrum has been losing its appeal - this album helps redress that balance. It is sharp, heavy as a brick to the face and intelligent as well; I love the fact that the spoken word narrative runs through the album. This is a top quality British metal album and a late contender for album of the year - it is that good.
9.5 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost.....
Top track - The Ultimate Narcissist
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
You can purchase the album from the band's record label (Candlelight) Bandcamp page here
You can follow Voices activities on Facebook here
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
Alternatively, you can listen to the album on Deezer here
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