If there’s one problem with today’s metal scene, it’s that there’s not enough Infernal War in it. As heard most recently on 2015’s Axiom, the Polish blackened-death troupe are possibly the fastest, angriest, and most captivating band ever recorded, all of which make their lack of productivity that much harder to endure. Fortunately, all their rage couldn’t be contained in just one project, and thus War guitarist ‘Zyklon’ and vocalist ‘Warcrimer’ formed Voidhanger in 2010 to further their main band’s hate crusade against humanity. Rounded out by drummer ‘Priest’ (Massemord, Ordaza), this not-quite-side-project is essentially War’s spiritual counterpart, delivering a punkier, thrashier, and altogether nastier version of that band’s scathing black-death assault. It certainly hit hard on 2013’s Working Class Misanthropy, but how does third full-length Dark Days of the Soul fare?
As it turns out, pretty damn well. Coming off last year’s promising split with fellow Poles Witchmaster, the band continues to deliver a searing collision of thrash, black, and death metal that makes Goatwhore look like Little Bo Peep. Opener “Dark Days of the Soul” shows right away their propensity for effectively combining these styles, throwing listeners right into a veritable inferno of frantic thrash riffs, scalding tremolos, and tempos that wildly alternate between blastbeats and crusty pummeling. It’s a great start, and by the time that rapid chug hits about halfway through, you’ll be searching for the Oxyclean to get the stains out of your underwear. Follow-up “Death Wish” continues the attack with a blistering pace, more fierce chugs, and a shoutalong chorus that works cries of the track title into a blunt and urgent riff.
As Days continues, it’s clear Voidhanger’s biggest distinction here is their ability to incorporate varied tempos into what at first seems a relentless template. While there’s plenty of rapid drumming and even some blastbeats, these 8 tracks are also stuffed to the brim with turn-on-a-dime tempo shifts that are often used to deliver delightfully punishing chugs. It’s a great way to keep things engaging, and the inclusion of a few even slower moments doesn’t hurt either. Third track “Naprzód Donikąd!” opens with a measured pace and malicious clean picking before launching into its hammering rampage, while late highlight “War Is Certain, Peace Is Not” ends with doomy, monolithic tremolos that sound like a kaiju twisting the Golden Gate Bridge apart. Yet even that isn’t as heavy as closer “Hailing the Devil in Me,” whose stomping rhythm and slow crushing chords make for a fine end of Days.
If there’s any weakness here, it’s that these tempo shifts feel a little too sporadic. While Working Class Misanthropy also featured varied rhythms, the songwriting was tighter and more direct – here, the frequent shifts sap some of the memorability. Likewise, while the riffs never lose their potency throughout these 33 minutes, they generally feel less distinct than those in Misanthropy. Fortunately this is the extent of my bitching, as there’s plenty more good to discuss. The performances are tight, the songs are distinct from each other, and the blackened moments grant things a wonderfully dingy atmosphere. The production is also superb, with a clear balanced sound that’s loud enough to command your attention without inciting listening fatigue. Of particular note is the guitar tone, whose full and incendiary sound is one of the best I’ve heard in the genre.
As always, Warcrimer’s maniacal scream-shouts make him one of my favorite vocalists in metal today, and almost redeem that embarassing Iperyt album he performed on last year. It’s also impressive how Zyklon’s guitars so deftly shift between different styles, a trait highlighted by the layered, cinematic tremolos of misanthropic anthem “High on Hate.” At the same time, the gang shouts of the song title in that track’s midsection make one thing clear: this band is inspired, and they know how to write killer music that isn’t afraid to throw some exciting twists your way. In all Days is lean, fierce, and angry, and while you probably won’t be carving Voidhanger’s name into your arm anytime soon, those who prefer their death-thrash blackened with a side of “fuck you” would do well to give these War-mongers the time of day.