Review: Void Ritual – Death is Peace

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Label: Ipos Music

Are Void Ritual one of the most under-rated bands in US black metal? Based on previous releases, it would have been a reasonable question to ask, with albums from the solo project of Daniel Jackson, such as Heretical Wisdom, providing evidence that there is plenty of life left in second wave worship, even if said records do little to advance the style. Yet with Death is Peace, the answer becomes more concrete, with the latest album being not so much an evolution of previous Void Ritual releases, but a reinforcement of all that was good about them. Frost-bitten melodies sit atop atmospheric riffs, all laced with hooks and a sense of character that brings to mind forgotten forests and secluded, snow-topped mountains. It’s all done with a sense of conviction that is so often lacking in other adherents of the second wave, and on Death is Peace, it comes together in a excellent style, making this record the equal of practically second wave inspired act you care to name.

As alluded to above, there have been no grand shifts in the style of Void Ritual’s black metal since the release of Heretical Wisdom. The shadows of early Satyricon and Immortal loom heavily over Death is Peace, and whilst those bands are rightly regarded as colossi of the second wave, their lingering presence does not overwhelm Void Ritual’s sense of character. It’s a rare delight, to find a band who play such a well-established sound in such an over-crowded and often derivative scene who actually possess a feeling of their own identity, and that’s just what Void Ritual put across – not just on Death is Peace, but across their whole discography.

A large part of this on Death is Peace is down to the lyrical themes. Whilst such an album title in the hands of other second wave inspired black metal bands might imply themes of nihilism and hate – or simply some sort of play on words – it ties in here with the album’s exploration of depression, anxiety, and loss. Whilst most of the actual lyrics are lost in the mix – with Daniel’s oft-shrieked vocals being placed behind the guitars in the mix – enough comes through for the overall narrative and sense of feeling to come across.

Speaking of the guitars, it must be emphasized how integral they are to the success of the album. That might sound like an odd thing to say about a metal album – after all, isn’t practically all metal built upon guitars? – but by being placed so dominantly in the mix, their intricate, weaving melodies come through all the stronger, with their movements taking the lead rather than the vocal lines. Given that there are so many excellent leads and movements throughout the album, it’s a smart decision – and in that sense, Void Ritual remind me of fellow one-man black metal act Rebel Wizard. Their styles of black metal may be different, but both bands place the guitars in dominant positions, and both individuals write some superbly inventive, invigorating pieces that simultaneously stay true to the grimness of black metal, whilst injecting it with a sense of energy and urgency.  Likewise, there are moments when the bass lines come to the fore, with the guitars carrying along the rhythm and atmosphere, and such sections are among the highlights of the album. The drums are just as inventive too, with a superb sound that makes it difficult to tell whether they are programmed or not.

The only criticism that can be leveled at the album is that several of the songs don’t so much have introductions or endings as they just start or finish; and over the course of the album, the strong, vibrant production and intense nature of the music can lead to some of the differences between the songs being obscured. Even so, this is a minor criticism; Death is Peace feels like it should be experienced as an album rather than a mere collection of songs, and certainly comes across as a single body of work. Death is Peace is, frankly, probably the best piece of second wave inspired black metal likely to be released this year; and should see Void Ritual rightly be considered as one of the best black metal acts in the US today.

Death is Peace is due for release on 3 August 2018, and can be pre-ordered digitally on Bandcamp. All revenue the album generates will be donated to The Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women.

 

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