Voices
London

Do you remember the first time you heard City by Strapping Young Lad? Can you also remember trying to describe it to your friends? You’re going to have the same problem with London. But, you won’t be able to say it sounds like City, because for the most part, it doesn’t. So, why am I drawing the comparison, you ask? Well, maybe I’m just grasping at straws since there isn’t really anything that sounds quite like London, but I’d like to think there are some significant, non-musical similarities that warrant it. Both albums are overflowing with an inexplicably vibrant intensity, defy conventional categorization, and are sophomore efforts that greatly improved upon the group’s debut. And, there’s the obvious fact that London is a city. But, other than it also living firmly within the metal genre, the music of Voices comes from a different sphere of feelings and influences.

Perhaps a brief history lesson is in order. Once upon a time there was an innovative band from the UK that went by the curious name of Akercocke. If you haven’t heard them, go find yourself a copy of The Goat of Mendes and work your way forward (the debut can wait until last). They performed live in suits, sang about Satan and sex, and weren’t afraid to mix moody progressive elements along with sinister clean vocals into their brutal black/death assault. Voices drummer David Gray was a founding member, vocalist/guitarist Peter Benjamin performed bass on their final album, Antichrist, and guitarist Sam Loynes provided electronic accompaniment when they performed live. So, there’s a strong connection to that sorely missed act. The Voices debut, From the Human Forest Create a Fugue of Imaginary Rain, was like a blacker continuation of Akercocke. While enjoyable in its own right, I felt it was lacking something. London is a very different beast.

Basically, these demented Brits have run wild here with some of Akercocke’s more artsy leanings and shifted the core of their sound to somewhere between technical death metal, grindcore, and industrial metal (minus the electronics). The guitars can be percussive one moment and launch into agile chord progressions the next, while David Gray’s drumming ranges from sustained hammering to freeform jazz with ease, and bassist Dan Abela sounds like he’s been taking lessons from G.C. Green. Then, there’s the liberal use of acoustic guitar, piano, and clean vocals. Peter Benjamin’s vocals have become a force to behold as they channel Tuomas Tuominen about half of the time and Rainer Landfermann the other half, with no clear separation of the two. It’s an impressive range that could’ve easily come off as disjointed, but instead feels very organic and emotive, and creates an interesting contrast to the precision of the heavy guitars and drums.

The lyrical themes explored in London are also far from the typical death metal fantasy fodder. First off, the title obviously comes from a very real place that also graces the album cover. However, that’s really just the setting for this personal concept album that spins a poetic, emotionally complex tale of woe involving feelings desire, paranoia, jealousy, insecurity, distrust, and frustration all centered on a femme fatale named Megan. These genuine feelings are a refreshing change of pace from the genre’s typical treatment of sexuality based in horror and dominance. That is, if this album can even be considered death metal at all — something like “extreme arthouse metal” or “brutal tech goth” might be more apt.

Singling out individual tracks on an album like this is fairly moot since they’re all meant to work together, with some serving as brief segues and other larger compositions connected by pieces of narration. Like a good book that you can’t put down, London is best experienced whole in all of its ambitious, confounding glory that somehow manages to come across as completely natural and effortless. One of the things that I love about metal is how, even after 45 years of existence, it still has the ability to surprise me like this. If you let it, London can bring back that same wondrous feeling that got you into this crazy music in the first place.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Adam Palm
April 13th, 2015

Comments

  1. Commented by: Rabid1

    Nice review, man. As a huge fan of Akercocke, “From the Human Forest…” felt like a bit of a let down. Not bad by any means, but certainly a digression from where Akercocke ended. In my needless and usually unwanted opinion, this is my top album of 2014.


  2. Commented by: Adam Palm

    Thanks, Rabid1. This will likely end up high on my 2015 list (I’m going by the North American release date).


  3. Commented by: Luke_22

    Truly an exceptional album and excellent review. I’m exploiting the release date loophole as well for my year end list.


  4. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    I miss Akercocke sooooo bad. David Gray is a favourite drummer of mine, and somehow he wrote maybe the most Satanic lyrics I’ve ever heard. I’ve liked what Voices I’ve heard.


  5. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    okay, so this record has basically been kicking the shit out of me for what seems like an interminable listen. truly great stuff.


  6. Commented by: Adam Palm

    Glad to hear you’re digging it, Nick.


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