Given the current collective headspace, the thick layer of death/doom on Dead Void’s Volatile Forms probably isn’t the healthiest use of forty four minutes for the lot of us. There are certainly days where I feel as if I am “Perpetually Circling the Void,” though it would be a small act of mercy were that feeling to last just eleven minutes as it does here.
Label: Me Saco un Ojo / Dark Descent.
All of this is to say that Volatile Forms is the heaviest album I’ve heard this year. Sure, maybe ever-so-slightly spit-shined relative to The Looming Spectre demo. But the bass-heavy production further amplifies the same scuzzy landscape from 2018. And no one is going to mistake this for a Kevin Shirley production.
Album opener “Atrophy” sets that scene particularly well, a characteristically slow, almost Penance-like (“The Unseen”) approach that, mental preparedness be damned, will almost certainly drag your unsuspecting body, buzzing ears and all, through the thickest layers of mud. “Atrophy” is as effective an initiation as I’ve heard in some time. Its aural assault relents but, in its orthodox fashion, does so only in the few transitional moments—those in which the band perhaps sounds the most like a death/doom Celtic Frost. That command of songwriting, of feeling and impact, is present throughout.
As cacophonous as Volatile Forms can be, the band never loses sight of a much larger thread of melody. “The Entrails of Chaos” is a case in point. Without so much as asking, it just sort of takes you by the throat and never quite loosens its grip. But the pummeling is often so Celtic Frost in fashion that, no matter how many times I hear it, I halfway expect a “heyyyy!” And the interspersed noodly riffing has a vaguely Vigna-like vibe that feels oddly comforting. Dread level ten, no doubt, but the orchestration is undoubtedly melodious.
Though not for the faint of heart, Dead Void’s full-length debut is better heard than described. You’ll read no shortage of comparisons, this author’s take no exception. Yet your particular experience with Volatile Forms will yield its own frames of reference. That instinct to frame it by way of other artists is probably a comfort-seeking one, and one which makes sense given the sheer weight of its assault. Truthfully, though, the album resides completely in a world of Dead Void’s making. And there’s something almost indescribably special about that world. I feel as if I appreciate that specialness now, but that even more will be revealed with time. Suffice to say, I am perfectly fine with that.