posted on 10/2011 By:
I’ve always found Craft to be a good-not-great example of black metal’s less speedy side, although even that tenuous reputation was tested by 2005’s utterly bland outing, Fuck the Universe. With six years passing since that album’s release, it appeared that Craft’s lifespan had ended with a definite whimper, so I was surprised to discover that not only had the outfit returned with a new record, but that it mostly lived up to the reputation set by this band’s first two LPs. While it’s still hardly light years beyond the competition, Craft’s first album since the hiatus following the disappointing Fuck the Universe is a much improved offering over its predecessor, and should do well to reignite interest in a project that many believed had succumbed to irrelevancy.
Craft’s style has changed little from their previous works – it’s the execution that stands out this time. The overly punchy production of the last album has been somewhat alleviated in favor of a more organic mix that lends itself well to the textures of the guitars, and the prominent contributions from the bass are a welcome bonus to the compositions. The band’s primary operating speed is still firmly in mid-paced head-nodding territory, with groovy, spiteful riffs strongly influenced by Darkthrone’s post-Transilvanian Hunger albums. This menacing, slow-rolling type of black metal doesn’t have the benefit of the automatic intensity that is generally provided by lots of blastbeats and tremolo picking, which means that attitude and atmosphere are even more important to the album’s success than usual. And fortunately, these are two areas where the Swedes definitely shine. Craft has a notable talent at achieving a misanthropic aesthetic through a combination of malicious vocals and chilling, ominous riff-work, and there was never a moment where I questioned the honesty or sincerity of the sentiments that fuel the music on Void.
But aesthetics aside, I found my attention drifting throughout the duration of this record, and the moments that reclaimed it were typically those that saw Craft deviating from their slow-and-ominous approach to deliver a rocking riff or icy melody – see “The Ground Surrenders” and “Void,” both of which close with a surprisingly heartfelt melodic crescendo, or “I Want to Commit Murder,” which opens with a searing transition from punkish malice into sinister Celtic Frost-ian groove. These tracks exude an energy and focus that is just as much the result of more compelling narrative songcraft as it is the result of faster tempos, and in the wake of these more vibrant songs, the album’s more minimalist cuts had me checking my watch. While there’s nothing inherently offensive about the sparse crawl of tracks like “Come Resonance of Doom” and “Leaving the Corporal Shade,” there’s also little in the way of real hooks or ear-catching refrains, and the multitude of less-than-captivating segments in these longer songs makes listening from start to finish an uneven experience.
Void is a much better conceived and executed offering than Fuck the Universe, but the actual musical content still walks a consistently fine line between riveting and dull. With that said, I would definitely recommend this album if you find yourself more drawn to the simplistic kind of mid-paced black metal Craft purveys more than the genre’s heavily atmospheric strains. It’s entertaining and convincing enough to make the less interesting moments forgivable for appreciators of this style, but it’s not engaging enough throughout to make it a must-listen for black metal fans in general.
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