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The merger between black and thrash metal is a major component of modern dark metal. This phenomenon is partly explained by the search for rawer sound and attitude, but also because many black metal musicians grew up listening to bands like Anthrax, Slayer and Testament. When the merger is well executed, we can hear a wild combination of dynamic/rhythmic riff-based thrash and dark decadent atmosphere of black metal. When it is missed, it gives the new album of the Swedish band Craft.
Void is Craft’s fourth album, a band known for its nihilistic approach and its lo-fi black thrash, but six years are separating this sequel from Fuck the Universe, released in 2005. I do not know what band members did during this quiet period, but it had certainly not much impact on song writing quality. Several good riffs can sometimes be heard, notably on Serpent Soul, The Ground Surrenders or I Want to Commit Murder, but too often, songs are slowing down, looping or becoming hopelessly repetitive. For once, I was really annoyed by an album, as it felts lazy and not done carefully. It is even more shocking when we think about Craft musicians' experience and knowledge (including the main songwriter, who has played in Shining).
Craft surely wishes to regain its footing in the world of black metal after a long hiatus, but it is certainly not with this album that it will be achieved. 3/10
Originally written for Métal Obscur.
Craft has been kicking around for ages and had released three full-lengths before this slab dropped in Early August 2011. I 'm not a message-board warrior, for the most part, so I have no idea how this band is regarded within the larger metal community, but they're a perennial favorite of mine. Accordingly, this release was met with some anticipation, compounded by the fact that their previous album (the rock-solid "Fuck the Universe") had been released in 2005. Much and more can happen in six years, so my attitude toward this album was one of extremely cautious optimism. After the 20 second long "Intro" and "Serpent Soul" I found that my skepticism was, for the most part, unjustified.
First of all, I was pleased to see that Craft's core sound--slower, heavier, riffier parts punctuated by busier, more dissonant black metal portions replete with tremolo picking and blast beats--is not only well in evidence on this release, but has been sharpened and refined. The disparate styles have begun to infect one another, and the doomier or deathier slow parts have begun to take on the character of black metal in their angularity and occasional brittleness while retaining the completeness and almost geometrically satisfying nature of a well-written riff that sticks in your head.
All this is to say that Craft has decided that it is not going to worry about progging out their sound so it has a bunch of extraneous (to them) components; the music is unmistakably Scandinavian black metal to the core, all blast beats and raspy, shrieking vocals. If Craft knows or cares about any recent developments in black metal, it's really good at not letting on.
After the inconsequential "Intro," "Serpent Soul" doesn't quite do the trick for getting things moving, as far as I'm concerned; it's kind of a frenetic, meandering sort of song that doesn't really do much to make itself memorable. This poor start was immediately forgotten upon hearing the following three tracks, "Come Resonance of Doom," "The Ground Surrenders," and "Succumb to Sin." The former is a solid song that would not sound out of place on "Fuck the Universe" with its alien, stilted drums and crescendo of steel-string chaos toward the end. "The Ground Surrenders" is simply a fantastic song. The guitars churn over a stomping drum beat for about the first half of the song, at which point the it switches from sludgy crunch to laser-focused black metal, played with astonishing power, forcefulness, and precision; I was immediately reminded of baroque music, and that impression still hasn't entirely left me. "Succumb to Sin" is a nasty, snarling, piece of work with a lurching, minor key riff accented by strangulated string bends. The hostility oozes from the music as the drums crack, thump, clang, and clatter beneath guitars that morph and swell, sounding one moment like a particularly restless doom metal band, then taking an abrupt detour back into Craft's wheelhouse with an extremely clever, stark, tremolo picked guitar line that closes out the song in a furious blur.
The remainder of the album is a plateau (in the best way; they kept the quality high!) from these tracks as it winds and works its way through the remainder of its length, taking extended, dirgey detours with conversational guitar parts that play off of one another in unexpected ways. The album's true display of unremitting black metal insanity comes in the form of the completely-lacking-in-subtlety"I Want to Commit Murder," a blunt weapon of a song that is nevertheless extremely effective at doing what it does (namely, freaking right the fuck out).
One thing cannot be said enough: Craft has a sense of symmetry, meter, and restraint that goes ignored too often in black metal without sacrificing a scintilla of the music's impact. "Void"'s songs are written like a mathematical problem, in such a way that one is always drawn to the "correct" conclusion that leaves the song feeling somehow especially complete. This just means that these songs are meticulously composed and arranged so nothing seems out of place, and the album is stronger for it. Craft's modus operandi has always been to mix ugly things with other ugly things and see what new ugliness can come out of it. I'm happy to say that wherever the well of ugliness being drawn from by these guys is, it's far from running dry.