Italy’s Void of Sleep caught me by surprise with their excellent 2013 debut Tales Between Reality and Madness. Boasting a suave mix of sludge, stoner, doom and prog influences, Tales was a mighty first statement and addictive, refreshing album that firmly landed Void of Sleep in my sights as an exciting band on the rise. Sophomore album New World Order dropped in 2015 and found the band beefing up the prog and refining their sound. Though a solid album in its own right, it lacked some of the raw energy and penetrating hooks of the debut. Some five years later, Void of Sleep awaken from their slumber with third album, Metaphora, a highly anticipated release from my viewpoint.
The gorgeous acoustic strings and ominous vibes of “The Famine Years” gets the album underway, seguing into the colossal riffs and progressive sludge bluster of 11-minute epic “Iron Mouth.” Void of Sleep boast a signature sound all their own, and this is evident throughout “Iron Mouth,” a lengthy but frequently engaging and well structured composition. I’ve always admired the band’s ambitious approach and cunning skill in winding the connecting bloodlines of sludge, stoner and doom through a complex progressive maze, dabbled in psychedelic hues. Bright melodies and tough, groove soaked riffs are skillfully counter-punched with darker undertones, complex arrangements and progressive detours. Burdo (also of underrated doom act Arcana 13) handles guitar and vocal duties, once again showcasing his strong, versatile vocals. Whether singing in his predominant clean, melodic style, or adding some gruff, aggressive variations, Burdo’s vocals are a dynamic force and infectious cog in a sleek machine.
Metaphora loses momentum briefly with the ambient tones of “Waves of Discomfort” proving a unnecessary distraction for several minutes. Thankfully, the remainder of the album gets down to what Void of Sleep do best and the quality remains consistently strong. “Master Abuser” ramps up the aggression with steely riffs and aggressive vocals, adding some spite and fury to the album. The killer hooks and dark lyrical edge of “Modern Man” is another highlight, intermingling structural dexterity and technical chops, with hugely addicting writing and weighty riffs. Void of Sleep maintain the rage, even the exploratory and introspective instrumental passages rarely lose focus, with the band adept at writing memorable songs fukll of staying power and hooks galore. Splendid closer “Tides of the Mourning” revisits the mammoth length of “Iron Mouth” with stunning results. The song expertly shifts from dreary melodies, rife with melancholy tones, into heavier, fuzzed out riffy peaks, adorned with tasteful synths. An emotive, spine-tingling vocal refrain repeats to seal the deal amidst some inspired, psych-drenched guitar work.
Despite a couple of line-up tweaks, Void of Sleep sound tighter than ever on the instrumental front, shifting through complex and dynamic arrangements with precision and finesse. Complimenting their united technical skills, including the frequently engaging drumming and excellent bass work, is the double pronged axe attack from Burdo and Gale; a groovy, proggy, riffy and technical package well worth the price of admission. Solid integration of synths and keys in scattered places, courtesy of new member Momo, adds further depth to Void of Sleep‘s repertoire. Throw in typically strong vocals and Metaphora meets my high expectations head on. While the vibrant, loose vibes and creativity oozing from the pores of Tales, may be difficult to top as my sentimental favorite, in many ways Metaphora is the band’s most elaborate and strongest work yet. Only the unnecessary ambient detours of “Waves of Discomfort” and similarly tedious tail-end climax of “Master Abuser” marginally compromise the towering strength of the album. It’s by no means a deal breaker, and at its gripping best, Metaphora is a creatively written, versatile thrill ride and skilled amalgam of interlocking musical styles.
Void of Sleep have risen amidst the chaotic current climate of the world, and especially their homeland, to deliver a timely opus. On Metaphora, Void of Sleep rediscover top form, seamlessly shoehorning doom, psych, stoner and heavy rock components into a memorable progressive sludge package, well worth the wait. Metaphora is another triumph of style and substance from a hugely talented and criminally underrated band.