Voices - From the Human Forest Create a Fugue of Imaginary Rain
Candlelight Records
Progressive Black Metal
9 songs (53:58 )
Release year: 2013
Official Bandcamp, Candlelight Records
Reviewed by Goat

It’s official; Akercocke have called it a day, and their darkly humorous Satan-and-high-tea black/death/prog metal will grace our ears no more. I was a massive fan, as past readers will be aware, and it’s a real shame that some of Britain’s best have hung up the tweed suits, but family and life understandably can intrude on the art of metal, as I’m sure we’re all aware. Still, several members of Akercocke have decided to keep going in a new, different form, and drummer David ‘Blast Vader’ Gray and bassist Pete Benjamin (also previously of my favourite-obscure-band-no-one-else-has-heard-of Corpsing) are here, the latter taking up vocal and guitar duties. His transition to a frontman seems assured – although his vocals aren’t up to the incredible variety of Mendonça’s he’s more than capable of the snarls needed. Rounding out the band are second guitarist Sam Loynes (who played live for Akercocke and also for the talented upcomers Talanas) and bassist Dan Abela (who’s played on Sarah Jezebel Deva’s solo albums) and despite being a new band only formed in 2012, they’re clearly a professional unit from this very good debut album.

Akercocke fans shouldn’t be too excited, however, as despite clearly having similarities with that band’s distinct sound, Voices are different – they lack the rawness that Mendonça’s mob had, for one, and have a fairly clear, clean production, although they seem darker overall. That sense of humour and Hammer Horror-esque Satanism that was a feature of Akercocke albums is lacking here, and so songs pack more of a punch, seem to go deeper and nastier in their toying with black metal. Musically, however, that same progressive and ambitious approach to songwriting is apparent, and there’s even a hint of the air of frenzied sexuality, too, although you won’t hear any female orgasmic moans...

Opener Dnepropetrovsk (named, I assume, for the 2007 murders) launches immediately in with vicious snarls and jagged, jerky modern black metal riffing (like something from the guitars of Deathspell Omega or Blut Aus Nord if attacking you rather than hanging in the air) oddly melodic even with the obvious brutality – Gray has lost none of his skills for making blastbeats fascinating and varied. The following Eyes Become Black is more typically Akercockean, clean singing and catchy riffing reflecting back to the likes of Leviathan, with moments of harsh, atonal black metal squalls between – light use of female vocals and piano during the chorus works wonderfully, too.

Yet Voices are at their most interesting when striking out on their own, delving in black mines for new gold. Fragmented Illusions of Anger opens with off-kilter dissonant riffing, seeming to get darker as the song progresses despite moments of clean vocals. The despairing scream at the start of This Too Shall Pass and the ensuing unrelenting fury make for a compelling unison, while eleven-minuter Sexual Isolation is a fervent, riff-worshipping number that builds up subtly and compellingly. Twisting and turning disturbingly on Creating the Museum of Rape, the band seem to be grasping for something more transcendental, taking their rage to extremes on closer Endless as a deceptively soft piano intro turns into a near-nuclear detonation of blastbeats.

As a first album, From the Human Forest… is impressive, but there’s clearly room for improvement, particularly with the songwriting, which can be a little dull at moments – Everything You Believe in is Wrong and Unawareness of Human Emotion are dangerously close to filler. There’s enough meat on the bone to convince me that Voices are much more than a tribute act, however, and if they add a little polish to their songcraft then the band will produce something as impressive as their former act. As things stand, they definitely remind me of earlier Akercocke rather than later Akercocke – choosing to focus on heaviness over experimental songwriting, making for a solid album but suggesting they can do more…

Killing Songs :
Dnepropetrovsk, Eyes Become Black, Fragmented Illusions of Anger, This Too Shall Pass, Endless
Goat quoted 78 / 100
Other albums by Voices that we have reviewed:
Voices - An Audience of Mannequins (EP) reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Voices - Frightened reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Voices - London reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
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