Voices – London (Candlelight Records)
CD / DL / LP
17th of November
For Louder Than War Andy Santiago reviews what he refers to as “possibly the greatest extreme metal release of 2014”. High praise indeed! To find out why he thinks this read on…
London. A seething hive of humanity where all is not what it seems on the surface. Scratching at the sordid underbelly of this pit of human infestation and it’s filth-encrusted streets are Voices, an extreme metal band currently pushing the boundaries of wrongness and unacceptability into previously unknown dark territories
Formed from the ashes of the now sadly defunct progressive blackened death metal titans Akercocke, Voices consist of former Akercocke members Peter Benjamin (Vocals and Guitar), Sam Loynes (Guitar, Piano and Vocals), the blast master himself David Gray (drums) and the line up is completed by bassist Dan Abela.
Voices began their twisted existence in 2011 and last year released their debut album, the magnificently titled “Voices From The Human Forest Create A Fuge Of Imaginary Rain” on the highly respected Candlelight record label.
Numerous live ‘Exhibitions’ ( the band don’t do gigs!) followed including prestigious slots at Bloodstock festival, Damnation and 2 appearances at Candlefest.
Voices are about to release their second album simply titled ‘London’ very soon and with that in mind, I sat down with the band and got the lowdown on past, present and future of Voices.
Firstly, if I may ask, what happened with Akercocke? There was no real official word. Did things just fall apart or did the band just come to the end of it’s organic life?
DG. “It never really fell apart, there wasn’t any one time when we said we shouldn’t do it, it got so long between doing things that we became convinced nothing was going to happen. We played a couple of shows in Norway and France and that was it really.
So, how long was the gap between Akercocke and Voices?
PB. “I think it was a couple of years really but we did a bit of jamming in the in between.
SL. “I think me and you Dave were doing a bit of jamming just to keep the flow going and Pete would come down from time to time, then obviously, when you start jamming, new stuff comes out of that.
DG ” I kept on playing with Matt (Willcock, ex Ak guitarist and Dave’s partner in crime in ‘The Antichrist Imperium project) and we wrote an albums worth of material and it was only this year that we actually recorded that”.
So will that ever see the light of day and will it be under the Antichrist Imperium moniker?
DG. “It will, definitely. But as Antichrist Imperium? I don’t know.
Generic, boring interview question time, would you care to describe the Voices sound?
PB. “I think we sort of started out with the intention of making really cold sounding music at first, desolate, confronting and dissonant. And extreme emotionally as well.
London. As well as been the title of the second album, it seems to be the subject of the pretty disturbing videos you’ve been putting on YouTube. Is this your interpretation of London been a cold, inhospitable place, a hell on earth if you will?
DG. ” It’s to do with the sound of London. There have been several good Death Metal bands from London but I don’t think any band has yet to define the ‘London Sound’ as it were. You can hear bands from Florida and instantly recognise that particular sound but we’re just carrying on that tradition, somebody should represent London.
SL. ” We write through improvisation so by the time we get to the rehearsal studio, it’s quite late and we’ve been working all day, you know? the ups and downs of that day, the travelling through London and over the years basically, it builds up and I’d say that’s a reason the music is so unhinged and cathartic. It’s claustrophobic, unforgiving and dirty, you become very disillusioned. It was almost like some people listening and some in the press that extracted the idea that Voices sounds like London.
The Candlelight record deal came about pretty quickly, how did that happen?
PB. “I saw Darren in a pub and said “Do you want to listen to my band? We’re looking for some one to put our record out”. So I sent him a song the next day and within 5 minutes he said “I want to sign the band”. Which was great, we already had the album ready to go and they were more than happy with it and didn’t want us to change any of it.
How often do you get together to write and rehearse?
SL. “Every week, we rehearse in a West London location where all our gear is permanently set up so other than the horrific travelling to get there we can just turn up, look at each other and say “Fuck off!” and start playing.
There’s the whole thing going on with the live shows, describing them as ‘Exhibitions’, care to elaborate?
PB “I think for me personally, it’s not really a gig, it’s a display of beauty and awfulness. It’s like art, we’re not just a band blasting it out, we’re displaying it.
“Jealousy”, that seems to be a word you use quite a lot…
SL “Jealousy, London, Obsession, they’re key words
PB “We write quite jealous music. I’m jealous of quite a lot of things. Everything that moves!”
So, the new album…?
PB “I think we’ve naturally progressed into writing actual songs now, before we were just ‘avin’ it, blasting all the time. We’ve got some kind of character going on now. We’re thinking about stories behind the music, a bit more mature”
DG “With the second record, we rehearse every week and nearly every week, we were writing a song, ok maybe it would need refining but before we even put out the first record, we were already well on with the second. We wrote the story behind the second album before we wrote the music. You know that whole thing at that time in the early morning where you’re mentally vunerable and you’re in a weird place? It’s very visually driven and quite cinematic.
What does Voices mean to you?
SL “Without it there would almost certainly be a void, it’s by far the most important part of my week so that in a way is our driving force. Whether people are into it which they seem to be more and more, our first and foremost goal is to satisfy ourselves, musically and creatively.
So after that insight into the world of Voices, what about this second album that goes by the name of ‘London’?
Opening track ‘Suicide Note’ sets a sombre tone with acoustic guitars, clean vocals and some oppressive piano work. This is a genuinely sinister beginning, haunting, threatening and at the same time quite, beautiful.
Voices seem to flick a switch at this point and without any warning the mood instantly changes into a frenzy of chaotic violence with the onslaught of ‘Music for the Recently Bereaved’. This schizophrenic beast rages along and then drops into a slow mid-section with more piano and some almost jazz stylings from ‘Jamaican’ Dave. This respite serves only to make the inevitable return to sonic carnage more potent. The dissonant riffing and incredible blast beats alongside the dual vocal mix of clean sung and harsh screams from Pete Benjamin are quite remarkable. A gentle piano outro leads into the first of several spoken word interludes that provides the cinematic narrative found throughout the album.
“Dead London sires dense anxiety out of black Westminster lungs full of sickness”
‘The Actress’ briefly continues with an almost melodic intro set over a blast that blends into a marvellous segment of dual vocals again with some truly innovative drum work.
One of the finest tracks on the album follows in the shape of ‘Vicarious Lover’. This is distilled aggression, the jarring riffs, relentless blasts and savage vocals combine into a terrifyingly exhilarating whirlwind of horror. What sets Voices apart from other extreme metal acts is their skill at imparting human emotions into something that is on the surface, cold and distant.
You get surges of longing, disgust, frustration, unbridled lust, desire and total isolation in the space of one track. Quite an achievement by anyone’s standards.
Before we are introduced to ‘Megan’, another spoken word interlude follows with the narrator giving more details about the protagonist that the album is based around and discusses being “condemned to exist in the small hours”
‘Megan’ continues with the juxtaposition of extreme horror and beauty with a confusing and disorientating array of textures and time changes. The band even have the audacity to place a drum solo in the middle of the track. Normally I would dismiss a move like that as an act of arch pretentiousness and little more than an ego-wank but the level of skill shown by Mr Gray makes it almost hypnotic and as the female voice creeps in repeating the title of the track, suddenly, it all makes sense.
‘Imaginary Sketches of a Poisoned Man’ opens with an almost industrial vibe before some of the heaviest moments on the album. Peter’s vocals are quite inhuman on this track, some of the most tortured I’ve ever heard.
Voices once again take the listener down an almost soothing path with the into to ‘The Antidote’, clean vocals and picked guitar create the atmosphere of all-consuming, mindless longing and frustration. “She cannot speak my name, I’m jealous of the rain… when it’s falling” laments Peter before the mood changes once again with some mid-tempo jarring guitar and swirling keyboards that build to a disturbing peak of intensity. Emotional and spiteful yet with an undercurrent of vulnerability and utterly stunning.
Another insight into the tortured existence of the protagonist comes before possibly the most accessible track on the album, ‘The Hourglass’ and it’s almost proggy vibe.
The splendidly titled ‘The FuckTrance’ is as close to what we know as Black Metal that Voices go, rather than frostbitten forests and all that, Voices conjure up images of an urban hell and the repeated stabs of piano add to the overall menacing undertow.
‘London’ is becoming more unhinged at this point and the next track ‘The House of Black Light’ is exactly that, the tortured scream at the beginning of the track indicates what to expect over the following 4 minutes, towards the end a gloriously chopping riff leads into a savage solo.
‘The Final Portrait of The Artist’ continues the spoken work narrative and if it was possible, drags the album into even bleaker areas.
‘Last Train Victoria Line’ comes in with an almost Type O Negative feeling, the anguish pouring out with the obsessive “Did you spread your legs for him the way you do for me? Did you gaze into his eyes the way you gaze at mine? Did you ever think of him when you’re here with me? Do you ever think of him when you’re fucking me?” The sense of emotional devastation is palpable.
The album is drawing to it’s inevitable climax with ‘The Ultimate Narcissist’ being as close to accessible and melodic as Voices get, it almost has a chorus in the shape of “Do you understand? I’m jealous of everything that moves”
Closing track ‘Cold Harbour Lane’ provides a crushingly heavy conclusion, clean vocals over mid-tempo riffing and a little atmospheric piano. The redemption and salvation of the stories protagonist? I think not.
‘London’ is a startling take on the extreme metal genre and a completely unique work. It is most certainly the sound of a band breaking free of their previous incarnation and taking their own depraved identity to incredible levels of originality. Voices are indeed the real ‘Future Sound of London’.
‘London’ is released through Candlelight Records on 17th of November. The band play an album launch ‘exhibition’ at The Black Heart in Camden, London on 22nd November and the band can be found on Facebook.
All words by Andy Santiago. More from Andy can be found at his Author’s Archive.