VOIDOATH – Ascension Beyond Kokytus (2022)REVIEW

Three mad, hate-filled eyes blazed up with a living fire, bright as fresh-spilled blood, from a face ringed with a writhing, loathsome nest of worms, blue, mobile worms that crawled where hair should grow —” John W. Campbell Jr., Who goes there? (1938)

VoidOath formed as a quartet bout four years ago, a pact of unspoken horrors made between members of San José, Costa Rica area crews Age of the Wolf, Dilapidated Mechanism, and traditional doom metal group Crypt Monarch for the sake of creating what’d amount to psychedelic doom/sludge metal with an extreme metal lean, an idiosyncratic death/doom metal paradigm vented through hypnotic sludge metal aggression. The ratio between those three elemental sub-genre markers wasn’t curated so much as it was naturally occurring, their chasmic sound design and exploratory heft accentuated alongside bustling, haunted riffs on their first EP (‘Illumination Through Necromancy‘, 2020). The first impression was strong and they’d brought a well-considered point of view upon introduction, a type of searching and scowling noise bearing an atmospheric sludge metal derived patience to its rhythmic development and a psychedelic doom metal core feeding its movements, particularly impressing with the last third of “Begetter of Swelling Ache” developed. These folks were album ready by the time they put out their first tape but of course there was no guarantee they’d have done -this- much work in amplifying their efforts unto next-level stuff on ‘Ascension Beyond Kokytus‘.

Azoth into gold. — Any concurrent and well-informed fan of both death/doom metal and sludge metal understands there is some manner of energetic exchange or weakening compromise that often arises within attempts to make concrete contextual convivence between the two realms, yet a proper death metal growl in front of a wandering slow and unholy heavy psychedelic doom riffs most often manages to crest that great hill in the rare set of capable hands. The effect and major stylistic success of this album is simple as that, and needs no real elaboration. But of course we are evolved beings here, aren’t we, and there’ll have to be some thematic marriage that works on all levels to bind the horrors of the unknown (death) with primally disturbing existential dread (doom/sludge) response. One of many reasons ‘Ascension Beyond Kokytus‘ lands so heartily in debut of VoidOath‘s sound stems from its depictions of classic science fictive body horror in combination with long and nauseating strands of psychedelic wandering, as the band theme its lyrics and presentation around the germinal novella that’d inspired John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) and its predecessor The Thing from Another World (1951), a novella sized story from the golden age of science fiction titled Who Goes There?, a classic more recently expanded through a long-lost manuscript in the form of Frozen Hell, the story of an Antarctic entrenched group of scientists facing off against a shapeshifting telepathic being, a true eldritch horror by description and a most memorable antagonist.

The suggested familiar scene is fitting enough setting for the chthonic growls, dire wailing souls, slow-burning fuzzed ’til overdriven riffs and adept sauntering between creeping death/doom and the psychedelic sludged effects-whirring stretches of plateauing mind VoidOath have developed, more-or-less leaning into the precedence created within the first and third songs from their debut EP for the three major movements of this recording. Those three ~13-15 minute pieces stray from their zeroed, slow-crawling Serpentine Path-esque pace often, leaning into fits of mid-paced death/doom metal sparking here and there but generally focused on threading riff after slow-crushing riff back and forth between surrealistic expanse and tumultuous inner spaces. The effect is, well, very much evocative of the quartet’s narrative intent as they weigh of the full album experience within those three pillars.

Opener “Orion-Cygnus Descent” showcases their Warhorse-heavy grasp of extreme doom rhythms, smartly pairing both growls and distant cleaner vocals for a helpless, imposing contrast of presence. There are myriad details to enjoy within the longer songs on this album but for my own taste the shortest (excepting the half minute interlude of “A Flare in Emptiness”) ends up being the most memorable, with “Festered Sepsis Lacerations” presenting a song which impresses by way of a strong blend of stoner/doom and sludge influenced tones and tension pairing well with the strong bellows of the vocalist and enhancing the screaming-mean guitar tone and gloom-heavy descent of the song, eventually leaning into a few blasts as the moment threatens to pass.

Naturally an album which leans into extended length pieces has some dangerous potential to scuff the discerning listener’s focus, one fouled-up or too indulgent song could mean a good fourth of the runtime ends up scabbed and to some degree this is true of “Alabaster Ruminations”, a ‘just alright’ largely instrumental piece to start which features droning and modulated samples beneath one relatively haunting riff which plainly grinds on for just over five and a half minutes. The song eventually picks it up, soon blaring with feedback and inspiring a hot-headed jam before the action starts up proper around ~8:30 minutes in. The rest of the track holds the coffin upright, expanding upon the opening riff in subtle shifts, but it isn’t the most engaging moment on the record.

As we push elbow deep into closer “From Gods to Morsels” it makes sense to consider VoidOath more than an exceptional fashioning of several extreme subgenres, though what they are doing here is somewhat novel and entertaining up front for that reason; It shouldn’t take long before the average listener begins to appreciate the severity of their craft otherwise, admiring the various palettes they’ve used to build this heady extreme doom metal structure and the miserable extremity of their concoction as a whole. A roundabout way to say I admire the death metal lean of their sound immensely and the more it crops up within the finale the more I am egged on to keep listening, spin after spin. This immersion easily achieved of course ends up being a key part of the enjoyment equation on my end, even with consideration for extended pieces naturally demanding extended bouts of listening, but that much should be obvious enough. Even if my thoughts don’t amount to much more than “this record sounds great, is heavy” I am nonetheless entertained, transfixed, floored by what these folks have managed on this fine debut. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Ascension Beyond Kokytus
LABEL(S):Cursed Monk,
Cognitive Discordance
RELEASE DATE:September 30th, 2022

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