Void - The Hollow Man
Duplicate Records
Avant-Garde, Progressive Metal
11 songs (38:12)
Release year: 2021
Duplicate Records
Reviewed by Goat

Starting life as a one-man-project of Matt Jarman and once featuring former Code / Dødheimsgard vocalist Kvohst and Ved Buens Ende / Aura Noir legend Czral on drums, UK-based collective Void have come a long way since their formation date in 1999 yet still have just three full-length albums to their name. The latest of these, a concept piece basely loosely on the TS Eliot poem, is an ambitious attempt at mixing various strains of extreme metal together, from industrial black metal to more experimental and avant-garde assaults, and it largely works! Listeners will be reminded of A Forest Of Stars' deranged approach thanks to some suitably insane singing and frequent use of violin, and there are times when this seems like a less Lovecraftian An Axis of Perdition, but there are touches of pretty much everything at play on this album, which takes multiple listens to appreciate let alone fathom. Those who have read the poem will appreciate the apocalyptic theme and suitability for audible re-interpretation, but even without that then The Hollow Man will impress on its choices alone.

It acts as one long track even with the various musical extremities, which can go from galloping industrial barrage one moment to folksy ballad the next. Earlier albums from the group had far more electronica in their DNA; conversely The Hollow Man feels brittle and very much avant-garde. Twisted narration opens the album on suitably-titled Intro, soon adding violin and horns on I: On Reading (The Hollow Men) and launching into blastbeats soon after, adding all manner of snarled, growled, and shrieked vocals alongside the clean singing and narration. The jazzy drums (courtesy of ex-Extreme Noise Terror man Joe Burwood) that open II: A Mental Break (Pink Beam of Light) help to distinguish it, together with a more riff-fuelled approach to the meat of the song, adding breakbeats and building to a cacophonic peak where the tunnel scene from classic work of cinematic existential horror Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. And then on again, to doomy riffs on III: Loss & Regret (A Featureless Iron Mask)...

Although there's not really anything that works as a hook, the tracks are different enough (particularly after several listens) to be distinct, and the music is always at least interesting even when the overall mix of styles isn't as compelling as it can be at its best. Personal tastes may lead to more criticism - personally, the narrated moments seem too frequent and can drag the likes of Transition down in comparison to more aggressive and guitar-focused pieces like IV: Imminent Demise (The Black Iron Prison) or V: Last Words (Contradictory Reading) which incorporates the more out-there vocal performances far better. The meat of the album is particularly focused on heaviest piece VI: Resurrection (Battery) which is dominated by the riffing to an almost death/grind feel, and rewards relistens more as an individual track when taken out of context, especially when compared to the following VII: Revenge (Babylonian Times) and its neofolk simplicity. Yet the true appeal of an album like this is for it in its entirety, as an experience rather than a collection of songs, and as such The Hollow Man is amongst the year's best blackened releases. A compelling but deliberately difficult album that rewards time spent but reveals much on each exploration, this is the sort of recommendation that will only appeal to some. They'll really love it, though; another solid argument in favour of the UK as a home of deliberately out-there blackened metal.

Killing Songs :
I: On Reading (The Hollow Men), II: A Mental Break (Pink Beam of Light), VI: Resurrection (Battery), VIII: The End (This is the Way the World Ends)
Goat quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Void that we have reviewed:
Void - Posthuman reviewed by Jay and quoted 37 / 100
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