The Answer Lies In The Black Void – Thou Shalt
Burning World Records
Release Date: 13/10/2023
Running Time: 45:00
Review by Rory Bentley
Summertime is over my friend, put the tank tops and shorts away and get ready to be wrapped in the Doomy blanket of The Answer Lies In The Black Void’s sophomore effort “Thou Shalt”. What we have here is an album that wastes no time pulling you into its ethereal darkness, where you will be captured for its entire runtime. ‘Ataraxia’ begins with a nasty pick slide into huge Doom guitars and elegant Gothic keys that usher in the haunting vocals of Martina Hovarth. Despite having a progressive structure it’s a tight composition that changes tempo and key so deftly it feels like sleight of hand. Hovarth’s vocals are outstanding here, as they are for the entire runtime, showing a power and command rather than just being pretty and floating over the crushing Doom beneath.
‘To Kill The Father’ continues in a similar vein, bringing a little more dynamism to the table with fuzzed out verses giving way to ambient, lush harmonies and a regal guitar solo that Paradise Lost would be pretty chuffed with. The pacing and the melismatic vocal phrasing reminded me of earlier Lacuna Coil albums before they went a bit too burger and fries for my tastes. Structurally again the song focuses more on overall atmosphere than rigid composition, yet it never feels indulgent. It’s basically Lacuna Coil for grownups.
Carrying on the strange comparisons, ‘The Obsidian Clouds’ offers what I would call Enya for Goths. Those spine-tingling layered vocals are complemented with a ching, icy key intro that gives way to another crushing barrage of guitars as layer upon layer of strings, keys and guitars build to create a cinematic experience. It’s almost overwhelming and the more sedate, gloomy strains of ‘Virgin Fire’ are a welcome breather from the barrage of melancholic anguish so far.
My final comparison point is a little less weird, but highlights what is probably my favourite song on here. ‘Jhieronymus’ lands somewhere between Chelsea Wolfe and Soundgarden at their bleakest. Vocally things are very “Hiss Spun” era Chelsea and instrumentally this song brings to mind the brooding dirge of Soundgarden’s masterpiece ‘4th of July’. The structure is a little more sparse than previous cuts, giving the track an almost cavernous feel for the most part, save for some devastating chugging when the tempo picks up and a tar-black squalling solo drenched in wah pedal. Phenomenal.
Things close out in characteristically magnificent fashion with ‘Vaporize’ which, after a creepy exhalation of breath, dives headfirst into a grandiose composition befitting the album finale. There is an analogue horror feel to everything, making the song painfully human and raw as some beautiful cello work bolsters the crystalline grace of the vocals. Plus, the riffs and deft lead guitar work are still present to add muscle and bite to proceedings.
“Thou Shalt” isn’t going to be a great pick for your Halloween party, there aren’t any bangers or hooks in the conventional sense, but it is incredibly engaging. To spend time in its company is to be transfixed for forty-five minutes, it is a nebulous album that you can never pin down to one sound, yet everything feels seamless and meticulously crafted. If you sit back and let it wash over you you’ll find one of the most captivating Doom records in this or any year.
02. To Kill the Father
03. The Obsidian Clouds
04. Virgin Fire
05. Shadow Work
07. Thou Shalt
Martina Hovarth – Vocals
Jason Kohnen- Everything else I guess
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