VOID ROT – Descending Pillars (2020)REVIEW

Hyperresonance — Decadent sculptures of our unlit inner worlds would glisten with the slime and repuked digestive sputum of uncountable leech-spawn were it not for the clouds of smoke that keep us sweating, chest-down in the dirt today; Choking away from the unsettling fiery death of our ancestral shelter and smelling the mana burn away from tree and soil alike. Bowing, praying, wailing and bartering at great cost have done little good beneath the raze of Helios, Sol, Surya or… whomever kaum näkte will not accept our sacrificial offerings. The devastation of mankind is a weak final ripple in the grand schemata of infectious chasm across worlds, a final flailing banner to blighted green-to-grey absorption aimed upon fracture and drainage unto waterless space. Fungal rifts descend as dried lichen from scorched old growth, meteoric showers of brimstone and void suffocated matter upon each blazon rock. Yet we still see Death as a distance, a tunnel and a light of crazed-yet-hopeful imagination, even when his blade has halfway severed our spine from its flesh. Void Rot is yet a most-powerful trance emanating from the ornately carved edifice of stone we retreat to — A lull into acceptance of impending doom via the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based death/doom metal band’s debut full-length ‘Descending Pillars‘ where all motion strays the mind toward the abyss of curious sleep that’ll make cult and corpse of all who’d endure its callously dirging siren song. Lean into it, stray from the heat and smoke of naturalistic devastation and feed the blue-lit furnace of man’s obliteration.

Formed via a casual Friday at work circa 2017 and feeding the great fires of ‘old school’ attuned death metal ever since, the four fellows who coalesce to form Void Rot are entirely practical when representing themselves. Unwilling to represent typical egotistical artistic waves but fully willing to fly the traditional norms of their craft as they reach for the high standards of revered underground death/doom metal acts today, the band exist to create immersive and menacing music. It need not be any more complicated than that in terms of drive and passion as it shows in their fast and appreciably slick rise since forming, getting picked up by the sharp-eared fellow at Sentient Ruin for their first official recording (‘Consumed by Oblivion‘, 2018) which might’ve been admittedly formative compared to what’d come next but, stunning nonetheless for its stylistic implications and the endless corridor of cursed cosmos envisioned. I’d given that first EP a fairly middling score in a review because it’d felt lacking in greater statement or, at least I’d not caught their drift just yet. All became quite a bit more clear this February when a split with French death metal band Atavisma showed some considerable genius on both parts, brilliantly dark rays of considerable growth in just a short period of time. Void Rot had found their statement, developing their voice beyond influence and notions of patternation wherein the ambition of their ideas met hand-in-hand with the high standard of Adam Tucker’s Signaturetone Recording (Witchden, Sunless, Phobophilic, etc.) capture. Though they are still a corridor of atmospheric death/doom abysm, getting from Point A to Point B is not without intensely entertaining gravitational flux.

Always pretty upfront and unapologetic about their major influences, which represent a “first and third” (or fourth, depending who you ask) generational flux of classic Finnish death/doom metal acts alongside the few modern artists pulling those old ideas into the future beyond surface level references. Krypts‘ second album (‘Remnants of Expansion’) is the easiest reference due to the atmospheric second position guitar movements and pacing but they’ll find kin in recent albums from Ataraxy, Spectral Voice, Mortiferum, and perhaps Ossuarium on some basal level. Their influences are not limited to any country’s early 90’s movement, though, as hints of surrealistic beasts Rippikoulu, Disembowelment, Winter, Abhorrence and Grave are noted as major inspiration in realization of Void Rot. This is fine company to keep and well, the 9-10 bands I’ve listed just now represent some of my all-time favorites, throw in Ceremonium and Gorement and my eyes will begin to roll back in my head due to the sheer ecstasy this well-picked legion of death represents. Sharp influences and the right mindset therefore go a long way to inform the quality level this band expects to reach when achieving a full-length and yes, ‘Descending Pillars’ is a beast worthy of such an elite cavernous cult.

Void Rot are yet a niche-inhabiting inferno of the black flame who focus heavily on mid-to-slow paced dirges of atmospheric death metal and this may not be the album to necessarily convert the brutalist or those with ears for something more direct. Each piece is a wandering and interrelated manifestation of a dark, indirectly presented ideal which avoids the evolved thrash metal phrasing driven side of classicist death metal for the sake of meandering arthouse death-chasmic surges of dissonance and doom-hearted dread. Some spouts of Necros Christos-esque doomed lunging does keep things afloat and varied but it will take some serious and rapt study to not fall under the mystifying spell of ‘Descending Pillars’ — If anything the effect of the full listen is supremely affecting despite my reservations that they’d fall into uniformly realized dirges, as on their EP. This time around the major variation comes within composition and vocal expression and despite this I would still suggest the complete experience is presented in linear and ever-increasing downward resonance. The echoing egress if it all is intoxicating, a sense of movement that’d make it necessary to fight off a curious death metal-imposed delirium that feels massively addictive despite very few of Void Rot‘s key movements being anything less than subtle. To truly be struck and lit by this album a deep affection for the subtle motions and crawling menace of classic death doom is entirely a prerequisite.

I’ve belabored the point in the wrong direction, sure, Void Rot can be categorized via their influences yet their own sense of expression is entirely rare. Opener, debut single, and title track “Descending Pillars” provides the major leitmotif and the Rosetta stone to decipher exactly what unique death/doom language the band will bring forth on the rest of the record. The main progression of the song is deceptively simple in construct but this core devil’s triangulation restates itself with grand variation enough times before the album has spun through its ~38 minute length that I’d find it difficult to release myself from the tension of the album after just one listen. The sock right into the blasting “Upheaval” smartly breaks things up right away, much like ‘Cadaver Circulation’ last year Void Rot‘s debut finds greater depth in pace changes despite always leveling back down to mid-paced death/doom for their most dramatic musical statements. The second single from the album, “Liminal Forms”, finishes off Side A with a bang or, at least some slow-blasted cavernous roars and leaving Side B to do a bit more (~2 minutes) of the work. This ends up being the stress test of the long play, flipping over to a 19 minute second side and feeling like it lasts nearly a half hour. For my own taste Side B is the boon, the riches, and the enrichment where Void Rot grows the most though I could see why it might provide the sensation of dragging on despite the relative brevity of the full listen.

The third single, “Inversion”, hits quite a bit harder than Side B opener “Delusions of Flesh” and I’d personally have swapped the two to provide a bit more of a grand entrance to this deeper, heavier sojourn of the other half. You’ll also find that triad of forms repeated within this song, reprising the core linguistic reap of the guitar work yet evolving beyond the simpler introduction of Side A. The one minute long instrumental “The Weight of a Thousand Suns” is superfluous and may as well have been tacked on as an introductory vignette for album closer “Monolith (Descending Pillars Pt. II)” which proves to be an essential clincher for the full listen that allows the full force of Void Rot to be expressed. Here the atmosphere is now fully developed and grotesquely immersive, a slight return of theme is reprised, and yet the attack of the band lightens in anticipation for the ethereal yet very ‘final’ feeling of the end. It cycles back around appropriately while both sides of the album are allowed their separate-but-equal entity. There are no major ‘hooks’ or head-nailing riffs that stick right away and feel eternal (see: ‘Unending Degradation’) but the whole experience makes a very strong case for Void Rot after 2-3 full listens where the scope of the album not only made great sense but kicked major death/doom ass.

With their own goals in mind, my own expectations surpassed, and a pre-order copy on its way I am unquestionably on team Void Rot in terms of being sold on their manifestations within the most prime death/doom metal spheres. Dynamically sensitive death metal that weakens the will and strengthens one’s apocalyptic resolve is yet an invaluable resource to my ears and I fully support their apt and reverent study of death/doom forms old, new and askew. There might not be a standout banging single here for my own taste but with the whole being considered ‘Descending Pillars’ is carved with some great talent, oozing morose liquid from every crack in the acid-drenched stone that sustains them. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation.

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:Descending Pillars
LABEL(S):Sentient Ruin Labs [NA]
Everlasting Spew Records [EU]
RELEASE DATE:September 3rd, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats] [ES]
GENRE(S):Death Metal,
Death/Doom Metal

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