Void Rot – Descending Pillars Review

Since we purchased our first home a few years ago, Mrs. Cherd has become rather obsessed with HGTV real estate makeover shows. This has led to many hours spent with identical twins Jonathan and Drew Scott and their galaxy-brain-named show The Property Brothers. One is a real estate agent, the other a renovation contractor, and every episode follows the same template. Couple looks for new house to buy and renovate. Their budget is bigger than yours. Property Brothers present options, couple chooses. Walls and floors get sledgehammered. Several problems are discovered. Most commonly, knob and tube wiring, galvanized pipes, and of course, Void Rot. Scenes go like this: a woman is touring the renovation progress. Jonathan1 pulls her into a room and points out a furnace duct. “This is a problem. To remove this wall, we have to relocate the duct. It’ll cost $5,000.” The woman doesn’t like this. “And that’s not the worst part. Come to the kitchen.” Upon entering the kitchen the camera pans to a large, oily hole in reality. You can see space/time bend and slip at the edges. Jonathan and the woman stare into the nothingness and grow pale. A spackle knife is slowly being pulled into the vortex center, languidly circling between worlds. Jonathan turns to the woman. “You’ve got Void Rot.” “What’s that mean for our budget?” Jonathan shoots her a discouraging look. 

Whatever it may mean for their budget—they installed quartz countertops, they’ll be able to afford it—for the Minneapolis band of the same name, it means death-doom. On Descending Pillars, Void Rot’s debut full-length through Sentient Ruin (US) and Everlasting Spew (EU), the pace is lumbering, the guitars are downtuned, and the atmosphere is suffocating. Tremolo riffs surge and recede while drummer WB coaxes from his kit a steady, thundering herd of heavy hoof-beats. On the death-doom tree, this is not the weepy guitar sad boi branch that sometimes manages to reach the light overhead. Rather, Descending Pillars is the gnarled, fruitless limb full of Incantationanigans most foul.

Unpacking a song like “Liminal Forms” shows the draw of Void Rot’s dark art. This is a lugubrious gloom concentrate, from the joylessly chiming guitar line to the detached death growls. Undulating tremolo riffs and steady-as-she-goes drumming have a hypnotizing effect while the classic guitar tone and unfussy but surprisingly clear production for the style give Descending Pillars an old school vibe. The band sounds tight and confident, as if in mid-career form. If there were debut album jitters, they didn’t translate to the songs.

The key weakness of Descending Pillars is a simple one. If, as above, I unpacked what was going on in any of the remaining songs, each description would say THE EXACT SAME THING. Even after numerous listens I have little confidence I could tell you which song was playing if you dropped me randomly into any of the tracks besides short interval “The Weight of a Thousand Suns.” This deflating uniformity has a few causes, starting with vocalist JH. His low, rumbling death growl has remarkably little variation and sits just far enough into the mix that it becomes background noise. WB’s prominent drumming also sounds robotically consistent, but these issues would be diminished if the songwriting were more dynamic. Each song has roughly the same number of transitions, each shifting the song only a degree or two from the direction it was previously headed before locking right back into the same rut again. Even the short interlude track, really just an intro to “Monolith (Descending Pillars II),” seems perfunctory. In a word, this album can feel monotonous. 

Fans of classic diSEMBOWELMENT or contemporary cavern-core torch bearers Spectral Voice will get more out of Void Rot’s debut than others, but their sound is sturdy and gruesome enough that one could choose any of these songs at random to liven deaden up their death-doom playlist. This is where I’d normally throw in a line to cleverly bring it back to the joke scenario I started this review with, but let’s face it, that one was pretty out there even for me.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories (US) | Everlasting Spew (EU)
Websites: voidrot.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/voidrot
Releases Worldwide: September 11th, 2020

Show 1 footnote
  1. Did you know he’s in a relationship with Zooey Deschanel? All famous people really do know each other.
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