DEAD VOID – Volatile Forms (2022)REVIEW

In purgation of the liminal traumata as experienced by the paranoia-seized mind, a thousand grotesque possibilities are met with brutal, gasping abreaction. Re-grieved to point of white-hot, fearsome angered sledge the lung-collapsing dirges of Denmark-based ‘old school’ death/doom metal trio Dead Void reach a point of exacting, physical-emotional drainage as they chop, burn and blast away at their debut full-length recording. ‘Volatile Forms‘ is the head first howl through the vellum-wrapped interiors of professional recording, an amplification of their intended style to an intimidating, mortifying level of aggression wherein cryptic horrors are revealed and the basement level crawl of their rehearsal revealed formative years left to fester. It is a skinning experience from a band whom appear well-tested and prepared, a flaying punishment which reeks of superior and defiant niche death metal taste.

Dead Void formed sometime before or around 2017 between three folks you might recognize as bassists, live or otherwise, in various British and Norwegian bands (Conan, Grave Miasma, Virus) over the years though they are apparently based out of Denmark nowadays. I’ve not entirely figured out why they’ve introduced themselves as “non-ritualistic” death metal, it seems a reaction to being described as ritualistic at face value but there might be an additional philosophy behind that suggestion. At this point we’ve gotten three limited rehearsal tapes from the band which aim for a style of morbid, obscure ‘old school’ death/doom metal focused on aggressive movement and lunges into slower, groove-heavy doomed pacing. The most reasonable place to seek precedence for what ‘Volatile Forms‘ achieves within their discography is the popular ‘The Looming Spectre‘ (2018) demo which immediately speaks to the earliest sound of groups like Cianide (per ‘A Descent Into Hell‘) and post-Contagion band Funereal‘s ‘The Misery Season‘ as the logical extension of a specific niche of Celtic Frost and Dream Death influenced exaggerative rhythms. The Kill-Town Death Fest ’21 specific rehearsal tape (‘Cranial Demonstration‘, 2021) hadn’t suggested their style had changed in the interim beyond a few tweaked-out solos here and there but we’d not yet been given any hint as to how heading into the studio might affect their craft.

In this sense you kinda know what Dead Void are up to on this debut, classic sludge-heavy death/doom metal with a unique rhythmic shape in mind, but it’d have to have been a flying leap of a guess ’til you’re actually hit with ‘Volatile Forms‘ which cleans up a bit by way of a professional recording and studio precise performances, especially compared to their rehearsal born tapes thus far. Replacing the forgiving murk of the rehearsal room doesn’t at all detract from their simpatico, if any thing the bass-heavy ripple effect of the production values on hand are easily read and impactful without obscuring the intent and shape of each rhythmic phrase, most of which are rooted in the droning, non-romanticist (or, melodic) side of death/doom metal which focuses squarely on the pulverization of the riff. The basis for the oppressive, gravity-swelling atmosphere of the listening experience is built within remarkably tense, hammered at doom metal riffs which absolutely aim to crack the skull with every hit. The abyss groaning tone of the guitars has precedence in the downtuned Hell of early 90’s death and doom metal, that much is a given, but the classic doom metal muscle memory of these folks won’t necessarily read immediately. These are lengthy, involved and chasmic pieces which demand some focus from the listener most willing to follow the thread.

It isn’t hyperbole to suggest that this record is sonically immense, complex in its specialized render of high-definition overdrive scalded low end and meandering riff but this is second fiddle in my mind to the entertainment value on hand per the arrangements themselves. Opener “Atrophy” is a fine example of the step beyond ’89-’92 death/doom metal by numbers this band has always taken yet is fully revealed; At around ~3:00 minutes we reach the first crest of gloom within the sort of wah-pedal chugged force of the riff developed, sliding into a transition which grinds alongside the best from Krypts before pecking at a twisted set of doom metal riff meander in making their way toward the punkish rush at the ~4:32 minute mark, a brutal thread of oddly timed blasts in regular volley that’d serve a thrill with each listen. Of course there are nearly four more minutes of pace-shifting runs, shrieks, and (again) plenty of riffs used to paint an imposing and sophisticated picture of death and doom which proves itself well above-average within that first ~10 minute song. If I could sum up how this develops over the course of ‘Volatile Forms‘, I suppose the general takeaway would amount to Dead Void being a death metal band for folks who put immense value on creative rhythmic play applied with a calloused, brutal hand and plenty of distorted bass guitar to clobber with.

“The Entrails of Chaos” is a pretty obvious piece to start with in terms of both understanding what Dead Void‘s sound brings to the table as well as their knack for memorable rhythms tied into inhumane, brutal presentation. It is probably the one song that’d had me reaching for the mid-to-late 80’s precursors to death/doom for the sake of how readable those riffs are and the serious-faced yet still cleverly tuneful aspect of the riffcraft. There are a few swings taken beyond that point that, at least in my mind, resemble the level of misery and dread found on Penance‘s ‘Living Truth‘ demo and I know that’ll read as an unnecessarily deep cut but taken in context with death metal the actual phrasing of the riffs translate with some relation of tone and emphasis, this being especially true on my favorite piece here “The Reptilian Drive”. That’d be me simply appreciating where this band’s hands go when creating doomed, frustrated and violent guitar work I suppose, but I guess the minor point being that don’t think these guys are trying to sound like Spectral Voice or whatever, and I hear some very strong traditional doom metal influence in here which is absolutely inspired.

A bleak, liminal portrayal of conjuration and merciless aggression resultant ‘Volatile Forms‘ is likely to end up the, or among the, heaviest death metal records released in 2022. Yet it doesn’t succeed by pure entertainment value and sonic extremism alone but likewise by way of its recognizable yet tangential relationship with tradition, a knack for rhythms which envelop and scald the already morbidity-exposed mind and ushers in freshly uncanny thought, a violent tension which will most heartily appeal to the authentic death/doom metal seekers amongst us. An absolute class debut record (Stefan Thanneur inked cover art very much included) which should need to do very little convincing on the part of elite death metal fandom. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:Volatile Forms
LABEL(S):Dark Descent Records,
Me Saco Un Ojo Records
RELEASE DATE:September 15th, 2022

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