Metal ebbs and flows. Genres get popular, fall out of favor, and then go through extended periods of dormancy before once again experiencing sudden and violent upheavals in popularity. Perhaps the most notable recent example was the metallic hardcore boom of the early 2010s. Back then “Entombedcore” bands like Black Breath and metallized powerviolence groups like Weekend Nachos were the cool kids on the block that every blog was posting about. Yet today, while some of these bands are still going strong (Full of Hell and Nails1), many have either disbanded (Enabler and Trap Them) or become largely inactive (Black Breath).
For a while, Colorado’s Call of the Void fell into this last category. The quartet gained some attention with 2013 debut Dragged Down a Dead End Path and 2015’s Ageless but have been pretty quiet ever since, other than a brief EP in 2016. It’s quite a shame, too, as the band have a fairly unique style that exists somewhere in the void between hardcore, metal, punk, and grind, with a few drops of sludge on top for good measure. Third album Buried in Light marks the group’s grand return, but will it beckon a new upheaval for the genre? Or at least the band?
Not really, as there are a few changes here that don’t always work out. Light is noticeably less savage than past albums, a quality that’s immediately apparent in the vocals of Patrick Alberts. Whereas Ageless and Path showed Alberts employing an irate roar, here he sounds a bit more stripped-down. The approach works fine for sinking the hook in early highlight “Suck Me Dry” (not to mention delivering some surprisingly melodic moments in “Drowning Hour” and the title track), but he lacks the commanding presence of past albums and becomes a bit monotonous. Likewise, while there are still plenty of fast and charging rhythms, Void have incorporated a lot more mid-paced moments this time around. “The Master” and “God Hunts” almost sound like KEN mode songs with their stomping beats and bass-heavy menace, while “ReDeath” stands out by building off a pummeling, tribal rhythm and adding a subtle industrial whirr to the guitars.
The riffing maintains that somewhat dissonant quality that almost sounds like a more off-kilter version of All Pigs Must Die. Songs like “ReDeath” and opener “Disutility” even incorporate some uneasy chords that call to mind dissonant black metal. But let’s be honest: Void have never had the most captivating riffs or memorable songs. In the past this wasn’t an issue because the band kept things brief and ferocious, but that’s not the case with Light. At 13 tracks and 45 minutes in length, Light is anything but brief, coming in at over 10 minutes longer than Ageless and a full 20 minutes longer than the debut. It doesn’t help that several songs end unceremoniously without delivering the crushing conclusion they deserve. Likewise, the album is loud and can be exhausting to digest all at once.
Fortunately the production is very good despite the volume, with a clear sound that accentuates the lively drumming and allows you to hear every strained vocal chord in Alberts’ voice box. The bass guitar is pulpy and occasionally peaks out from behind the riffs in very KEN mode-esque way. It helps that there are several standout tracks near the album’s end that mix things up with a bit more melody. “Almighty Pig” moves from gyrating intervals to thrashy riffs to a high-register chorus in grand fashion, while “Lurker” uses some wonky notes to good effect.
Yet on the whole it’s hard to be overly thrilled with Buried in Light. I was actually pretty excited when I read the promo blurb for this, as the band describes Light as “a concept record about what drives people to walk away from everything—from blind servitude or to suicide in a seemingly ‘perfect’ world.” Sadly, this compelling theme falters in execution. Extending the runtime and reducing the savagery simply does not play to Call of the Void‘s strengths, and as such more memorable riffs or exploratory songwriting definitely would have improved things. There are still some good cuts here and as a whole Light is worth checking out for fans of Trap Them or All Pigs Must Die. Yet I can’t help but wish this Light shined just a little brighter.
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Translation Loss Records | Bandcamp
Websites: callofthevoid.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/callofthevoid303
Releases Worldwide: May 10th, 2019