From The Human Forest Create A Fugue Of Imaginary Rain
11 March 2013
by Rob McAuslan
If you’re at all interested in the deathlier end of metal, the name Akercocke should be all-too familiar to you. As one of the UK’s premier bands for the best part of a decade, the sharp-suited Londoners redefined themselves and the boundaries of the genre with each release, merging progressive tendencies and atypical electronica with dizzying velocity and feral savagery to create an enviable body of work. It’s been over five years since their last album, Antichrist, though, and rumours of their demise have hardly been denied by the band. With that background in mind, Voices‘ debut feels bittersweet. As good as it is to know that some of the UK’s finest extreme metal musicians are still working on new ways to disgust and horrify, this latest emission from three of the Akercocke weirdos seems to finally spell the end of their long-silent project.
Joined by producer Dan Abela, the aforementioned Akercocke trio of David Gray, Peter Benjamin and Sam Loynes haven taken key elements of their storied past and presented them in a new light. From The Human Forest Create A Fugue Of Imaginary Rain contains everything you’d expect from this collective – the metronome-confounding blast wizardry is fully present, with a more than ample selection of Gray’s trademark (and still unusual) breakbeats backing a different but no less vicious selection of riffs, synths and vocals. The first and most obvious change you’ll notice is in the voice leading the line. Where Akercocke had the guttural brutality of Jason Mendonça’s throat, Voices take a more blackened tack straight away, with the opener ‘Dnepropetrovsk’ coating the churning guitars in a hoarse midrange snarl reminiscent of Enslaved’s Grutle Kjellson at his most incensed. As an intro to the band it sells them a bit short, despite being a mighty fine (and fun) few minutes of nastiness.
The point where From The Human Forest… properly opens up is the second track, ‘Eyes Become Black’. There’s a hymnal, votive air to the cleanly-sung verse before operatic female vocals wind around an asylum’s worth of howls and growling to coalesce into a melancholic pre-chorus that sets up an unexpected hook in the descending melodic riff that follows it. This precedent set, Voices proceed to shred any further preconceptions you might have from here on out – ‘Fragmented Illustrations Of Anger’ punctuates languid droning dissonance with shocking bursts of furious, staggering acceleration whilst the frantic queasiness of the guitar interplay and overlapping vocal lines in ‘Unawareness Of Human Emotion’ give way to a pensive acoustic fadeout that does far more to unsettle than calm any frayed nerves.
Watch the ever-so-slightly NSFW video for ‘Fragmented Illustrations of Anger’ by Voices:
That type of stylistic juxtaposition serves Voices well throughout the entire record, without ever becoming predictable. The bandmembers’ experience and skill, added to their enviable songwriting ability and obvious unwillingness to settle into genre tropes for too long, is allied to a clear desire to push themselves and the listener. Abandoning the “grr Satan” angle altogether, and focussing on the reality of humankind’s capacity for ignorance, self-obsession, lust and violence makes Voices’ debut album a confident first step on a newer, darker path.
Sounds Like: Akercocke (duh), December Wolves, blackened death metal with a boner that won’t quit
Standout Tracks: Unawareness Of Human Emotion, This Too Shall Pass, Endless