Release DetailsLABEL Candlelight
RELEASED ON 6/4/2013
David Gray could make any straightforward modern black metal band into a fearsome force.
From the Human Forest Create A Fugue of Imaginary Rain
There’s something about metal that encourages bands to keep going, year after year. The genre is young enough that the oldest bands in the genre—Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest, for example—are still touring and even recording new music. Our community is remarkably tolerant of consistent middle-of-the-road releases by bands, as long as they fit the band’s niche (see Bolt Thrower et al.). So it felt almost strange when an extremely talented and innovative band like Akercocke called it quits after fifteen years. Yet sometimes out of the collapse of something great, another power arises. Welcome Voices, the new band of David Gray and Peter Benjamin.
While Gray still brutalizes the drum kit in this new quartet, Benjamin has migrated from bass to guitars and vocals. They’re joined by Akercocke live guitarist Sam Loynes on second guitar, and Dan Abela on bass. So with three former members of Akercocke, does Voices sound like the same band with a new bass player? No, not at all. There are certainly similarities—both bands play an amalgamation of death and black metals with some grind influence thrown in that defies easy categorization, and they do share a similar flair in the vocal realm. But Voices possesses a unique and invigorated sound.
From the Human Forest Create a Fugue of Imaginary Rain begins heavy on the experimental metal front with the surging dissonance of “Dneprpetrovsk.” The poly-rhythms and diminished scales call to mind recent experimental black metal works such as Dodecahedron and 777: Sect(s), with none of the Morbid Angel influence of later-day Akercocke. Benjamin’s snarled and howled vocals in particular give the track a biting edge. The second track, “Eyes Become Black,” however, reveals a more contemplative side to the band. Here Benjamin actually sings, occasionally joined by female vocals as well. In this mode, he sounds much more reminiscent of Jason Mendonça, but with significantly less bombast.
Much of the time, these vocal additions work quite well, such as in “Fragmented Illustrations of Anger,” or “Everything You Believe Is Wrong,” where they are used to highlight a melodic chorus. Occasionally, though, they feel like a misstep, particularly in album centerpiece “Sexual Isolation.” At 10:42, this is the longest track on the album by about 20%, and is the only place where Imaginary Rain really loses its direction. It’s the slowest track on the album, and the screeching guitar riffs feel disjointed and uninspired. The moments when things start to speed up and display a bit of energy simply feel like fills. Perhaps if the song weren’t as long as it is, it wouldn’t be as off-putting.
Fortunately, things get right back on track for the second half of the album. “This Too Shall Pass” displays an amazing flurry of snares and cymbals, which proves that David Gray could make any straightforward modern black metal band into a fearsome force, while the previously mentioned “Everything You Believe Is Wrong” continues the melodic assault. “Creating the Museum of Rape” brings back some of the strong dissonance of the first half, as well as the female vocals. The album closer “Endless” utilizes acoustic guitar and piano as contrasts to the layered distorted guitars and blastbeats, and while it’s the second longest track, it doesn’t feel over-stretched like “Sexual Isolation.”
Dan Abela’s bass does little musically interesting, but sonically is rich in the mix. The kick drum is fairly leathery and dry, and the snare in particular is mixed high and thin, so the rumble of bass is essential for giving these tracks a full, thick feeling. Gray does a lot with cymbals, and it’s good to hear them cutting through the guitars. The majority of the time the guitars are forming aural carpets more than riffs (“This Too Shall Pass” being an obvious exception) in a way becoming far more common in extreme metal. Yet From the Human Forest Create a Fugue of Imaginary Rain never sounds ripped off, and Voices never sounds like an Akercocke rehash. It’s good to hear these musicians creating new material. Here’s hoping that Voices proves productive and long-lived.