Voices London 01If you’re anything like me, you’re super awesome. But more to the point, you would have been saddened by the split of blackened death metal troublemakers Akercocke a couple of years ago. Perhaps the UK’s most consistently entertaining extreme metal act of the last decade, they seemed to improve on every album, reaching a pinnacle on 2007’s Antichrist. “Best to give up while you’re ahead” you might think, but I suspected they would have improved still further if they’d released anything more. Voices are the band that rose from Akercocke’s ashes1, and 2013’s From the Human Forest Create a Fugue of Imaginary Rain almost proved my intuition right. It was an excellent debut, but didn’t quite tickle me in the same way the ‘cocke had managed. London doesn’t tickle me either; it flays me alive.

London is a concept album. I’m not clear on the precise details, but it involves a wretched man on the verge of suicide, following his descent into madness as he wanders through the London night, pushed into his current state by the rotten city and its inhabitants. His only apparent source of human contact, and the object of his infatuation, is prostitute “Megan.” The band mention on the audio commentary (available on Spotify) that the narrative themes are strongly influenced by Graham Green’s “The End of the Affair,” and this is apparent in the ideas of confused love, hatred, and jealousy. A narrator updates us on details between songs in delectably dark prose, but you are never sure whether the story being told is as things are, or as they are imagined by the protagonist’s tortured mind.

The musical parallels with Akercocke are clear, but Voices have managed to create a sickening identity all of their own. You always felt a welcome guest at Akercocke’s rituals – a little uncomfortable at times perhaps, but delighted by the decadence of the Satanic rights you witnessed. Voices offer no such comforts, instead tying you to a lamppost with razor wire and pissing in your open wounds as they force their despairing noise into your skull. The death metal influences are subtler, rarely giving us the opportunity to headbang to old-school riffs as Akercocke did, and when they do surface they’re more Ulcerate than Morbid Angel. Instead we are exposed primarily to dissonant, experimental black metal, blending elements from Blut Aus Nord, Anaal Nathrakh, and Arkhon Infaustus with Voices’ own grim psychedelic wanderings. The compositions are sculpted to provide visceral accompaniment to the evolution of the storyline, so while the songs aren’t conventionally structured, each has a unique identity. Sometimes the writing is not quite there – trance-like repetition stretched too far or a riff that doesn’t entirely draw you in – but such moments are rare.

Voices London 02

The septic atmosphere is conjured through a combination of eerie melodies, clashing harmonies, intense dramatic vocals, and a harsh production. The discordance and angular riffing are designed to alienate and erode the listener’s stamina; we are allowed the occasional moment of catharsis but rarely for long. “The Ultimate Narcissist,” for instance, would have been an almost triumphant ending for the record, but of course that’s not the point and our spirits are summarily crushed by the anguish of “Cold Harbour Lane.” Peter Benjamin’s clean singing is similar to former Akercocke colleague Jason Mendonça’s – perhaps more melodramatic – while his harsh vocals range from brutal growls to unbearable, tortured shrieks. The guitar tone is highly distorted, and the whole production is treble heavy, bass light, and very compressed, furthering the aural discomfort. Usually I would criticize this, but it matches the horrid atmosphere the band aim to create. The music wouldn’t work so effectively if recorded with vintage analogue warmth.

A teacher once explained to me the importance of concept in music thus: “A student submitted a repetitive dirge as their GCSE 2 composition that bored me to tears. The piece was called ‘Factory’. I gave it an ‘A’.” London is leagues away from boring, and, despite its flaws – occasional lapses in composition, the compressed production – it succeeds spectacularly in delivering the concept. You might not enjoy every moment of your listening experience, but you’ll be completely captivated right until the final excruciating note.

Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Candlelight Records
Website: VoicesLondonOfficial | Facebook.com/VoicesLondon
Release Date: EU: 2014.11.17 | NA: 01.27.2015

Show 2 footnotes

  1. A little-known adaptation of Angela’s Ashes, incorporating more Satan, and tits
  2. Exams taken by school leavers in the England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Lasse Momme

    November keeps on banging out awesome records.

  • basenjibrian

    Wow. Need to check this one out!

  • lacsativ

    “If you’re anything like me, you’re super awesome” I lost it =)

  • Christian P

    ” didn’t quite tickle me in the same way the ‘cocke had managed” MMMMM cocke

  • quark

    Yes, that’s all well and good but does it have bongos in it.

    • Jean-Luc Ricard

      Ah, the one thing missing! The only reason it wasn’t a 5…

  • Alexandre Barata

    There’s Akercocke comparison commentaries on this review. Gotta listen to this album!

  • ZEbyiUWvbe

    I loved Akercocke and I love dissonant French black metal (Blut Aus Nord, Deathspell Omega) but the first Voices album was way too harsh for me, I couldn’t stomach it. I’m scared to try this one.

    • Jean-Luc Ricard

      Do not be afraid, my child. Give in to the squalor and filth. You’ll be glad you did.

  • Is there a preview track or anything floating around yet?

  • Alexandre Barata

    Gave it a try. As a concept album, is great. The narrative is pretty awesome, the harsh voice has some of the V.I.T.R.I.O.L. madness. As the clean singing, it resembles to me more of Khvost than Jason Mendonça, which isn’t a bad thing at all.
    As music goes, when you forget about the concept of it, there aren’t many interesting parts, those that makes you feel amazed at their technic or ambient. After you finish listening the album, there aren’t a couple riffs in your memory. There were a couple of musics that made me watch to see their name because they were pretty cool though!
    As a whole I liked it, much like I liked The Trial by Kafka. Amazing concept, interesting approach, but not as memorable as many other albums/books from their peers. As for the album I still prefer Akercocke, there’s more punch, more catchiness, in general is more fun. Still a great effort and certainly a worth to buy album.

    • Alexandre Barata

      This said, I only gave it a couple listenings, it might grow on me and become one really essencial album. For now it’s, for me, closer to a 3.5 than to a 4.5 :)

    • Jean-Luc Ricard

      That was pretty much my impression after my first couple of listens. It certainly isn’t “catchy”. But the more I listened to it, the more I felt myself appreciating what they’d managed to do interlinking the music and the concept. And every time I finished the record, I had a stronger urge to play it again. It’s definitely a grower.

      Agree that Akercocke were more fun, though!

  • Mike Eckman

    Man, I REALLY want to like this. There are parts of this album that are really good! I can handle big swings of style on a single record from beautiful melodies to extreme screaming, but some of the changes on this album are so sudden and “jarring”. There are moments where Im totally into the music, then the blast beats start! :(

    • Jean-Luc Ricard

      It makes you edgy and uncomfortable, doesn’t it :-D

  • Oh.. this is so good.

  • Robert Mróz

    This has to be one of the best opening sentences in a review ever. Also – HOLY SHIT, guys from Akercocke have a new album!

  • Grymm

    I can’t stop listening to this album. David Gray is a beast on drums as usual, and Peter Benjamin’s voice is right up there with Dave Hunt’s in terms of versatility and intensity.

    Had I heard this last year when it was released, it would have made my list. As it is, it’s my most-played album this year so far.

    • Grymm

      Also: “Suicide Note” has to be not only one of the most beautiful, heartwrenching, raw ballads I have heard in ages, but also one of the most misleading, as the rest of the album just rips heads clean off (with the exception of the spoken word, natch).

    • Still completely in love with this record.

      • Grymm

        “Hourglass” especially is so good.

        David Gray’s fills are incredible.

  • Angel R. Suarez

    You know, I think even their first album, ‘The Human Forest…’ is fucking pretty solid. I’m growing to like Voices more than some of the ‘Cocke (though WTGU;DTGU is a masterpiece).

    They seem to dabble in the softer, darkly elegant moments more.

  • anonbr666

    Can’t stop listening to this beast of an album.

    Art in its vilest form.

  • Requiem

    Music for the Recently Bereaved is my Song o’the Decade. Such twisted and darkly beautiful atmosphere, such gripping heavy instrumentation, such genius in the minimalist, precise keyboards. Leaves me speechless- breathless- every time.

    This leads me to but one conclusion: I *must* check out Akercocke.