GUTVOID – Durance of Lightless Horizons (2022)REVIEW

Surreal recognize surreal. — Much as nowadays ‘old school’ influenced death metal revisionism and its stagnating aesthetic variants often land as feigned sleepwalking presented for participation points there are just as many folks out there earnestly digging up ye olde wellspring with purposeful additions in mind, or, striking gold by chance and/or high aptitudes. The pro-level classicist death metal scholar can easily identify the difference between inspiration and influence derived from gathering the greater quandary of the past and unlocking it with elite-level action. With this in mind it’d be fair to say that 90’s death metal merely provided a germinal source of possibility, inspiration, for Toronto, Ontario-based death metal quartet Gutvoid which might’ve stemmed from a few points of shared interest. Yet their work wasn’t readily revealed ’til it was its own decided upon form, purposefully not reliant upon tropes and trappings wherever possible. That said, a taste for the obscure, the weirding, and the death metal guitar riff eventually lands all manner of extremophiles to the watery graven realm of Finnish death metal. The curiously doomed, celestially expansive lurk of the ancient ones surely had some part in creating the involved, often mazelike torrents of ooze crafted between Canadian musicians Brendan Dean (Pukewraith, Soul Devourment) and Daniel Bonofiglio (Intestinal Hex, Internal Infestation) since 2019. The duo would be ready with an impressive debut mLP (‘Astral Bestiary‘, 2019) soon after making the project official, revealing a sound inspired by the rhythmic torsion of Krypts, the cerebral excursions of Demigod, and various influences (Timeghoul, Spectral Voice, et al.) which they’d remarked on when I’d interviewed them for the physical release/premiere of the mLP in 2020. It’d been such a significant release, such an impressive monstrosity in introduction that I’d almost expected the fellowes to flail in conquering such a high standard upon iteration, much less expansion. In a state of full-fledged absorb of their masterful debut full-length ‘Durance of Lightless Horizons‘ I’ll certainly never underestimate ’em again.

The years since haven’t been quiet on the Gutvoid front but the tension has only thickened as ‘Durance of Lightless Horizons‘ readied itself in the shadows. We’ve gotten about one song per year in between, starting with the bass-heavy forcefield of “Forbidden City Beneath the Crypt” (2020) and the psychedelic turmoil-tunneling of “Murmurations of Twilight Bodies” from the ‘Four Dimensions of Auditory Terror‘ (2021) split, each song revealing the scope of their reach as a bit more progressive, increasingly masterful of slurred and rotten kosmiche-death rhythms with a cryptic ‘old school’ death metal touch in the distance. At this point their sound was clearly not in plain followership of trends but rather appeared to balance classic death metal aggression and clever rhythm guitar phrasing with a wandering ear for progressive notions, a reasonable place to expand and elaborate from a death metallic locus and the doomed lunges of their debut mLP. Don’t get me wrong, ‘Durance of Lightless Horizons‘ is going to send ancient death metal maniacs into fits of face-wrenching spasm but not for any too-obvious references made beyond a riff or two on “Delivered to the Altar Lich”, and in this sense it’ll be a creeper, a record with a slow-to-build atmosphere of its own making.

Worlds within a world. — At this point one should approach this debut LP from Gutvoid with one expectation alone, to be transported. And yes, I know that sounds somewhat cliché but it rarely rings true when describing the atmospheric values of death metal, what I mean is that the most signature aspect of the (now) quartet’s sound finds each song illustrating a scene, a world and some manner of tormented landscape in the motion of its often mid-paced, elongated phrasing. The anxietous pummel of ancient Finnish death metal and the endless chasmic halls of post-‘Onward to Golgotha‘ death/doom metal are here in spiritual abstraction and goaded along their reveals by way of carefully considered sound design which acts in merger of doomed-death, per a mix from Krypts drummer Otso Ukkonen and their progressivist inclinations per mastering from Colin Marston (Krallice, et al.). “Coils Of Gas-Hewn Filament” takes us there immediately, showcasing the freshly evolved ruptures of the band in celestial scale as the 9+ minute opener parts sulfuric clouds and drifts down upon a scene of gigantic machinery, volatile drifts soon becoming irrationally stated grooves around the ~4:26 minute mark. Whereas the basslines and lead guitar accoutrement previously served as both drivers and dressing for odd-metered rhythms on Gutvoid‘s earlier releases they’ve chosen to introduce this record with an enormous piece which kicks along in zoomed-out, grandiose scale ’til the details arrive beyond the opening dirge. The effect is mesmerizing to start and well before we’ve even truly entered their domain.

In Caverns it Lurks” and the aforementioned “Delivered to the Altar Lich” act as confirmation of atmospheric values while presenting their own unique tangents with the former focused on infernal Solothus-esque rapture, an, equally grand-scenic route as the opener, while the latter ensures the riff-obssessed folks find a pocket of complex and weirding ruin to reinforce their primal death metal values. The lead guitar work is especially slick yet subtle within these pieces, often acting as punctuation to, or elaboration of, rhythmic phrases which deliver even more presence and panache than the vocals do in as the album warms up. It wasn’t until I’d hit the third song on the album ‘Durance of Lightless Horizons‘ that I was sure this was the Gutvoid I’d marveled over back in 2019 evolved and from that point I’ve been stunned at how much they’ve risen to task here in making this debut something enormous, professional and yet still capably achieved in its weighty ambitions. Nowhere is this more true than on “The One Who Dwells Beyond Time”, where the psilocybin-draped lids of the horizon lift and death seems to take forever to hit beyond that point of light, ecstasy and dread characterize their doomed harass as the piece churns on. An old, dead part of my mind melts back to life as these riffs emerge and dawdle, meandering towards their ringing harmonic leads and increasingly thunderous riffing. Eh, in practical terms this is probably where most will feel the modern side of Finnish death and ‘new old school’ death/doom colliding in the capable, sophisticated hands of the guitarists. It is the sort of song that freezes time and leaves me leaning over at my desk drooling, hypnotized.

“Skeletal Glyph” continues on at this deepest point of the full listen’s intensifying progression, a waltzing weird pure death metal accost initially centered around a riff fans of Abhorrence and especially Purtenance will appreciate to start and a song which fans of the two most recent Ataraxy records will likewise warm to immediately. We likewise get some Antii Boman-esque vocals as the song pushes on, a sort of thrill that patiently reveals itself as the layers of the song peel back to primal mid-paced death. That’d be an important point to make as we’re knee-deep in a headfirst dive into Gutvoid‘s simmering innards, they’ve taken their time to develop each notable moment along the way without too eagerly rushing towards the most obvious hook or riff, letting each big idea roll-in easy and present with a certain ‘confidence’ that is uncanny for a crew arriving upon their debut. The nigh fifteen minute closing piece “Wandering Dungeon” can attest to this in monstrous, indefatigable example as it assures that yes, we were listening to death/doom all along but from a point of view concerned with presentation, a great deal of tangential details to embellish and enrich with but also a sophisticated, conversational rhythmic bounding in mind.

Every minute of these ~53 amounts to something which gratifies and mystifies the patient ear. It seems that Gutvoid are always headed to some manner of conclusion or transition to the next event all while rarely building up the expected occlusions of chugging aggression, this is either a beast designed for its habitat or a habitat designed for the varietal proclivities of the beast. That is to say that this album counts in a way that many don’t, leaving just enough to the imagination in terms of lyrical concepts that the listener may very well run with it ’til personal meaning per the imbiber. ‘Durance of Lightless Horizons‘ doesn’t at all appear to be an alchemical experiment, nor a quick gig to push out a halfway-there stylistic idea so much as it serves a point worked towards carefully, selectively for a number of years. Looking back to 2020, it’d seemed like they’d already known where it was going and it was just a matter of waiting to see it realized and unleashed upon the public and after spending a few months with this debut LP I cannot wait to see what clairvoyance they’ve in mind beyond this stunning achievement. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (95/100)

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.
ARTIST:GUTVOID
TITLE:Durance of Lightless Horizons
LABEL(S):Blood Harvest Records
RELEASE DATE:September 23rd, 2022

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