The Answer Lies in the Black Void – Forlorn Review

Who doesn’t love international cooperation? Well, I suppose we’re bound to have a few hardcore nationalists in our readership who don’t, but in our increasingly connected world, getting cozy with the neighbors can go a long way. The same goes for metal; people from all over the globe, or even just the continent, working together can result in some magical things. Case in point: newly erected international project The Answer Lies in the Black Void, which is quite a mouthful as band names go. The duo consists of Hungarian citizen Martina Horváth (Thy Catafalque) and Dutch breakcore specialist Jurgen Köhnen (Servants of the Apocalyptic Goat Rave, ex-The Kilimanjaro Deathjazz Ensemble, ex-Bong-Ra, and about a million other projects), united by their love of doom metal. So is Forlorn a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize or does it have to be tried in Geneva?

No need for war tribunals; Forlorn is a beautifully bleak slab of doom in the tradition of Darkher or the female half of Draconian. A gothic streak comes trudging through the gloom, angelic beauty contrasted with crushing bleakness. Horváth’s vocal skills are well established, but with Thy Catafalque she never got extended spotlight time the way she does here. The central role allows her to show off her versatility, from a gossamer haunting (“Curse”) to powerful and commanding (“Become Undone”). The latter is perhaps her strongest moment, as for all her imposing grandeur, a desperation shines through that makes the performance far more enticing. It’s a testament to the emotional projection she can muster, a major strength of the album at large.

I’d be disappointed if there were nothing but straight female-fronted doom on here though, as Köhnen has a lot more experimental cred, and though the wheels remain firmly on the wagon, Forlorn does reach tentatively beyond the veil as time goes on. The earlier tracks are more traditional; the ethereal “Mina” reminds of Trees of Eternity and the heavier “Barren” recalls Kroh minus the HM-2 guitars. But halfway through “Rubicon,” shrill saxophones crash through the proceedings with calculated chaos. Every track thereafter has something unexpected to offer. “Moult” recalls Köhnen’s past projects with its semi-industrial trip-hop like beat. The gothic is dialed up to 10 with Edgar Allan Poe quotes and church organs on “For Nevermore,” while its direct follow-up “Become Undone” pauses the lumbering gait in favor of a full-blown black metal freakout replete with more saxophone. “Okkultas,” meanwhile, is a low-key affair, Horváth humming wordlessly over a slow, methodical beat that doesn’t even become a proper riff until halfway.

All this makes for an exciting album with a lot to offer, although not all of its experiments pan out equally well. “Rubicon” in particular seems lost most of the way, lacking clear focus and direction. The more traditional tracks occasionally suffer from overreliance on repetition, such as opener “Mina,” though the overall variety of the album softens this shortcoming somewhat. There’s a lingering sensation that while the duo has a lot of love and appreciation for more traditional Peaceville-style doom, it pulls back on its own reins trying to color within the lines. The stronger tracks are largely the ones that leave the beaten path, and I can’t help but feel like Forlorn would have been a stronger album if that path was never approached in the first place.

All the same, Forlorn is one heck of a debut, and even the less gratifying material can only be called so relative to the excellent majority. The Answer Lies in the Black Void embraces both the old and the new of doom metal, becoming a bit of an homage to the genre as a whole. The two members have already had some experience working together in folk/electronica band Mansur, and it’s clear they work well together. Köhnen seems to have a project for every day in the year, but I hope this one is not one and done; Forlorn is too good not to get a follow-up.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Burning World Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 24th, 2021

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