Blood Torrent – Void Universe Review

I miss the 1980s. Or I would, if I’d been there. I wish I’d been around to witness classics like True Blue Somewhere in Time, Madonna Peace Sells, and Like a Virgin Scream Bloody Gore in the flesh. But there’s a special place in my heart for bands that foreshadowed the development of extreme metal while keeping one foot firmly planted in their thrash or NWOBHM roots, like Sodom, Venom, and Slayer. German first-wave black metal enthusiasts Blood Torrent agree. We get lots of promos that cite early-90s second-wave bands as influences, but it’s rarer that albums purport to revive their mid-80s ancestors. Blood Torrent’s sophomore release Void Universe comes after a ten-year gap and aims to do just that. Color me intrigued.

Many listens later, Void Universe is still an enigma. It resembles first-wave black metal but doesn’t thrash as hard. Blood Torrent incorporates a hodgepodge of other influences, navigated by guitarists Erebos #14, Rahl, and H.A.V.O.C., whose stage name seems expressly designed to balloon my word count. The crew lays down a hodgepodge of doom riffs (“A Knowledge of Light”), NWoBHM guitar solos, and Elder-drenched stoner jams (“The Strive”), interspersed with more energetic black metal. The vocals also come out of left field, with H.A.V.O.C.’s lead vocals sounding like the guy from HeXen, while Erebos’ vocals on “The Strive” are a carbon copy of Skwisgaar Skwigelf. Drummer Grandur shines throughout, by injecting variety when the riffs drag (“A Knowledge of Light”), driving songs forward (“The Strive”), and taking the limelight with infectious hi-hat shenanigans (“Decay and Transformation”) and Vital Transformation-esque prog drumming (“Prisma”).

If my description makes Void Universe sound disjointed, that’s because it mostly is. Blood Torrent often struggles to cobble together disparate ideas in a cohesive way. Transitions between sections tend to be abrupt (“A Knowledge of Light,” “Necromass”), with unrelated melodies sometimes showing up after lazy pauses with little semblance of continuity (“Prisma”). This is made all the more jarring by the stylistic variety on display, which makes the quality of the transitions even more mission-critical. The album has the same problem macroscopically, with songs ending abruptly mid-idea (“Elemental Scorn,” “Necromass”) and industrial interlude “Raised Knives” seeming entirely out of place. Some of Blood Torrent’s excursions do work. The 80s-inspired guitar solos on Void Universe are surprisingly compelling (“Decay and Transformation,” “The Strive”), and closer “The Strive” does a stellar job of integrating crushing stoner doom and Maiden guitar harmonies into a blackened thrash attack without feeling scatterbrained. These are exceptions to the rule, and much of Void Universe sounds discombobulated in its experimentation.

This would be more forgivable if Void Universe weren’t so damn long. Most of the riffs that aren’t raw blackened scorchers feel lethargic and lumber long past their welcome, like the doomy second half of “A Knowledge of Light” and the middle of “The Strive.” And while Void Universe has a strong start, its midsection fails to keep interest (“Elemental Scorn,” “Necromass”), making the album feel like a chore. The more energetic parts fare better, like the speed metal opening of “Phantom Propaganda” and the thrashy main riff of “Decay and Transformation.” Blood Torrent knows how to grab me and make me come back for more. Even still, tracks like the 9-minute “A Knowledge of Light” start with solid ideas but stretch them past their breaking point. First-wave black metal is a genre that thrives in conciseness. At nearly an hour in length, Void Universe is 1.671 Show No Mercys long, and it shows.

Void Universe tries to do too many things, and spends too long doing them. The first thirty seconds of each song suggest that Blood Torrent could write a fun half-hour blackened riff-fest that would earn a much higher score. More surprisingly, “The Strive” convinced me that they could write a crushing half-hour stoner doom album. Instead, Void Universe is an hour-long mishmash of ideas that frequently lose my interest and don’t always gel together. The world could use more first-wave black metal, and I’m glad the folks in Blood Torrent agree. Void Universe doesn’t quite fill that void.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Trollzorn Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: April 8th, 2022

« »