Voices – London
Review by Rich Price
Voices – London
Voices are formed from the ashes of Akercocke by certified badmen David Gray (drummer extraordinaire), Peter Benjamin (Guitar & Vocals) and Sam Loynes (Guitar), the line up being completed by Daniel Abela (Bass).
Considering that ¾ of the band are from Akercocke voices managed to take a lot by surprise with their debut album ‘From the Human Forest Create a Fugue of Imaginary Rain’. Mainly because it didn’t sound much like where Akercocke left off. It sounded….. Well, really disturbing. It was a lot rawer like their older stuff but it also managed to push the boundaries of extreme music at the same time. It did so to such an extent that listening to the album in one sitting was almost a psychological endurance trial. Feelings of despair, anguish, isolation were rife… cool ?, if you’ve not heard it yet, you can listen to it here.
With that in mind I approached listening to their latest offering ‘London’ with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. What had they got in store for the listener this time?
‘London’ itself is described as a concept album set in what is described throughout as ‘Dead London, a dystopia as witnessed through the mind’s eye of the central narrator as their mental state progressively disintegrates as the album progresses.
This key central narrative defines the concept of the album, however it is difficult to ascertain what that concept really is because try as I might through repeated listens I really can’t get on with the monologues which intersperse most of the tracks. I got the concept or at least I think I did, however I wasn’t keen on the execution of them, they were just that little bit too hammy in the delivery. I don’t think the album works as well without them, but at the same time I didn’t really feel they had their desired effect.
Fortunately the music which breaks up these narration is really quite something. Opening track ‘Suicide Note’ is a simple and sombre track, consisting of repetitive clean vocals, guitar and piano. With the expectations set by ‘from the human forest…’ it’s quite a pleasant anti-climax. It’s obvious that they’re lulling the listener into a false sense of security. For now however, everything is right with the world and a sense of peace and beauty comes through the track.
As expected track 2 comes in as a direct contrast to ‘Suicide Note’. It’s a short sharp shock and delivers with gusto the sonic beating we were expecting from the outset. It’s clear this time that Voices with their dead London concept are going for a more cinematic feel and an enormous amount of thought has gone into this. The moments of beauty and sonic malevolence are perfectly juxtaposed throughout the early parts of the album. Gradually pushing the envelope as the move from one extreme to another: From the sublime to the sadistic.
This makes the album a lot more palatable that their debut, but at the same time, allowing them to progress to even more extreme and intense offerings. Track three ‘The Actress’ is a short blast of intensity where we start to see David Gray (Blast Vader himself) start to show off what he can really do behind the kit. For those needing introductions David Gray plays the drums like a pneumatic drill tickles pavements, precise, brutal and utterly relentless.
The blast beats on this are coupled with relatively melodic background music. It’s almost like one of those binaural beats you can find on the internet. Repetitive fast thumping noises combined with natural sounds that promise you all manner of wonderful outcomes of spiritual and psychic healing. This is very much like that, except rather than benevolence it seems more likely they’re trying to induce you to peel of your own face and throw it at a passing stranger. Intensity? Check.
The pace increases as the album progresses is ‘Vicarious Lover’ which is borderline schizophrenic in the way it seeks to mix clean and thoroughly demented vocals, coupled with some amazing drumming. A chaotic track which harks back to the dark despair, and sexual isolation of the first album.
The tempo changes at this point are hypnotic, and seek to put the listener into a state of suggestibility. They repeatedly take the listener to the brink of what they can cope with, bring them back and push them outside their envelope again and again.
In fact by the time the track ‘Megan’ starts it’s obvious that despite having more calm and beautiful moments in this album that before, they’ve actually succeeded in creating a collection of songs even more intense. It’s not as abrasive as ‘From the Human Forest….’ but it goes far deeper down the rabbit hole. ‘Megan’ is definitely one of the more avant-garde tracks in many sections it’s virtually jazz. Concluding with the word Megan being repeated for over a minute, if the person delivering the monologue was near me now I’d be calling the police and requesting the Tactical Aid Unit.
‘Imaginary Sketches of a Poisoned Man’ once again takes the listener just outside of their now considerably stretched comfort zone. It’s almost too uncomfortable to listen too. At this point I’m either much more tolerant of this extremity or voices are just pushing exactly the right amount so that it’s uncomfortable but the listener is mesmerised just enough that they can’t bring themselves away to put the kettle on and have a few deep breaths.
‘The antidote’ drops the tempo again pulling the listener even further into the listening experience. Pummelling blast beats and some epic vocal performances. Broken up halfway with an even more delusional monologue this really is becoming an assault on the senses.
‘The FuckTrance’ sees another increase in tension and aggression with a tour de force drumming performance, even by the albums already high standards. It has quite a jazzy avant-garde side to it as well, which is extremely chaotic and yet held together by some serious display of musicianship. By ‘The house of Black Light’ I’m trapped, the brain and sense are pulverised by the extremity on display here, the changing tempos and styles.
The album reaches its peak with the track ‘Last Train Victoria Line’ an absolutely bludgeoning track. If their goal is to have a cinematic experience then this is a particularly grim and violent horror movie. The malice in the vocals coupled with background screaming is almost the culmination of the previous narratives.
By the track ‘The Ultimate Narcissist’ the pace has been intense for a very long time, the sense have been punished so much that it’s quite numbing. The beauty and tempo changes on display earlier haven’t been heard for a while, it’s a bit overwhelming. Blast beats blur into one, and it’s slightly disorienting, to the point whereby this track doesn’t stand out on the album. It’s not exactly filler but it’s possibly one brutal track too many.
Last track ‘Cold harbour Lane’ starts to bring the pace down, whilst not mellow as before it does allow the listener the ability to prepare to adjust back in to the real world.
In a recent interview the band described their new album as being ‘Epic, Beautiful, Horrible and Lovely’ and I can’t help but agree, it’s all of these things. The first album was intense but this is something else. With album two they’ve really found their voice (yay a pun).
This album is easily on a par with Akercocke at their best, and is a fitting spiritual successor to that phenomenal legacy. ‘London’ is a truly spectacular album in a scene whereby extreme is common place and can sometimes feel stagnant and formulaic, voices have managed to push the extreme envelope that bit further. It really is something quite special.
Candelight Records release “London” by Voices on the 17th November 2014, you can pre-order your copy here.