VoidCeremony – Threads of Unknowing Review

The heavy metal world could use a few more big performer names, though with the landscape being as broad as it is these days, none of these names will ever ring quite as loudly as the Hammetts and Dickinsons of the past.1 If you are, however, looking for a new shred god to worship, Phil Tougas (First Fragment, Chthe’ilist, and oh so many more…) makes a great candidate, his cutting, Becker-ian2 playfulness adding instant color to whatever projects he touches. You can argue whether the resulting albums are truly good, but you can’t argue whether the man has furious fingering capabilities. With Tougas now baptized and confirmed for the 90s prog death sermons of VoidCeremony, will this altar of madness find a little more focus?

The ghost of Kronos past summarized on the previous word count abusing outing Entropic Reflections Continuum: Dimensional Unravel that “the parts are all there, but they’re not strung together in a sensible way.” So the real question for VoidCeremony is what’s changed? Certainly, it’s not the adherence to the progressive death metal laid out by our forefathers of late Death, Domination-era Morbid Angel, or Pestilence—though the production here is spacious yet modern, but the sound is as dusty and indulgent as you would assume. Still too does Voidceremony prize “fluidity over brutality,” finding an ebb and flow between peaks defined by Tougas’ and still present and shredding Garrett Johnson’s fretboard incantations. And perhaps even more so the mix highlights the upper-frequency bombast of Charles Koryn’s (Ascended Dead, Vrenth) tom exclamations and Damon Good’s (Mournful Congregation, StarGazer) nasal bass pops. VoidCeremony simply does VoidCeremony but a touch smarter, and a touch smoother.

Whether a direct result of Tougas’ noodlecraft or merely a total increase in melodic threading all around, VoidCeremony runs hotter and filthier than before. No one could accuse their previous output of possessing a riff void, but the first two tracks that unravel Threads of Unknowing rip fierce with befuddling brutality reminiscent of contemporaries Faceless Burial. In particular, “Writhing in the Facade of Time” and the monster closer feature bright, jazzy chord stabs and slides that act as a stank-faced foreplay to the sermon of shred that follows. Tougas and Johnson continually bend and warble richly toned modes between each other, which make some of the longer passages of time dissolve. Similar to Anachronism‘s release earlier this year, the interwoven voices that glisten with wandering reverb transform the overtly technical into dreamy and hypnotic—there’s no such thing as too much when every note feels right.

However, despite VoidCeremony‘s best efforts, there are segments between the virtuosic escapades of all involved. Even though Koryn gets his chance to shine both opening and closing “Entropic Reflections Continuum” with a tight and flashy skin show, both that track and “Abyssic Knowledge Bequeathed” suffer from an over-blackening that doesn’t fill the space as well as VoidCeremony‘s other elements. Whereas smart and tidy riffs bookend and break out in other forms, the heavy focus on tremolo runs to power these sections provides an unsettling alien landscape from which we view the VoidCeremony cacophony. And it doesn’t help that these lower impact numbers also lead into the gratuitously titled interlude “At the Periphery of Human Realms (The Immaterial Grave),” which is little more than a tone and mood exercise before the grand finale.

Nonetheless, Threads of Unknowing moves this highly talented act closer to being undeniably worthy. Though I suspect with the success that surrounds many of the members’ associated offshoots, VoidCeremony functions as a space where these scene-entrenched performers can stretch in a style they all love—a love which continually shows in the relaxed yet breath-taking nature of the technical feats on display. Though this outing sees a few more experimental and boundary-pushing arrangements—dissolving and layered vocals at intense builds, the sheer grandeur of “Forlorn Portrait: Ruins of an Ageless Slumber”—Threads of Unknowing comes off first and foremost as a progressive death metal lover’s delight. And really, who needs to aim to be the best when you can rock out, have fun, abuse death metal English, and be damn good while doing so?

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: 20 Buck Spin
Websites: voidceremony.com | voidceremony.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/voidceremony
Releases Worldwide: April 14th, 2023

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Oh wait, they’re still around and making bloated albums! I almost forgot…
  2. That’s Jason Becker for those searching for the reference
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