Rising from the ashes of the late, great Akercocke, Voices have just released their first album, From the Human Forest Create a Fugue of Imaginary Rain. It's a challenging album of progressive black metal, and I have to admit that I struggled with it at first. I think it's still very worthwhile, though, so let me give you the run down.
Peter Benjamin, the former bassist of Akercocke, delivers the vocals as a combination of mid-range black metal shrieks and his clean, emotive tenor. In some cases, we even get lilting, female vocals thrown in. You can hear all three in "Eyes Become Black," and you can hear Benjamin become his own, demented choral group in "Everything You Believe is Wrong." For the most part, the guitars skip the standard black metal tremolo lines and instead mix grinding, dissonant riffs with touches of math-rock freak outs. The guitar line in the opening track, "Dnepropterovsk," is as much an alarm from an ambulance as it is a riff, and "Fragmented Illustrations of Anger" has a whole sampler platter of jittery leads snaking through it. The bass is actually audible--which is always kind of exciting in black metal--although it's as much atmosphere as it is rhythm section. We also get some quiet acoustic passages and bits of piano here and there.
Which brings me to where I had trouble with this album. The music is forward-thinking black metal that's challenging in and of itself, but I kept getting hung up on the drums. They're provided by David Gray, who was also the drummer for Akercocke. His talent is obvious, and he plays with the kind of unrelenting fury you might expect. That said, the drumming sometimes bulldozes over the more interesting aspects of the music. Blast beats fire away over quieter interludes, and I'll be honest: Sometimes I really wanted it to stop. I don't think the problem is Gray's musicality, as it's clear he can play with a deft touch when required, but more the production, which puts a lot of the percussion very high up in the mix. In spite of being very intrigued by the music, I had to step away from the album after the first listen because the drums were stuck in my ear to the extent that I had a hard time hearing anything else.
When I came back to the music after a break, I did find I could "tune" my ear to hear the balance of the music again, and the album hooked me all over again. If you're a drum enthusiast, I suspect you'll love the album for the exact reason I struggled with it, but even if you're not, this is fascinating music well worth your time.
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