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Burning piles of the defaced. - 65%

GrizzlyButts, June 29th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, Digital, Independent

Your appreciation of Seattle, Washington based collective Voidthrone‘s polemical avant-dissonant extreme metal could entirely depend on whatever chemicals your body produces in response to aggressive chaotic sonic abrasion. Though not harshly extreme in the sense of the typically vomitous, roided ilk of most dissociation-seekers within black/death metal, Voidthrone‘s debut ‘Spiritual War Tactics’ was a gnashing of teeth and an ‘Obscura’ like gargling stomp of bending, dissonant guitar riffs and layered vocals set atop a stream of unpredictable flow. It wasn’t a far cry from Deathspell Omega‘s third-gen spawn of influence a la Martröð or Zhrine circa 2016 but represented something uglier, staggering and less concerned with flow. Armed with a new vocalist, guitarist, and some grander intentions for experimentation ‘Kur’ represents a continuation of Voidthrone‘s hapless, ringing curses upon humanity in praise of the underworld.

For a 25 minute dissonant blackened death metal album ‘Kur’ feels twenty minutes longer than it is due to broken-legged rhythms and the densely layered, frenetic guitar work from guitarist Ronald Foodsack and newcomer Mack Boyd, formerly of bland French death/thrash group Obnoxious. Perhaps equally notable is the growling and hissed choirs of Ukranian wizard Zhenya Frolov’s peformance. The extremity and shapeless nature of ‘Kur’ is relentless and perhaps even more noise-rocked and brain-sizzling than Imperial Triumphant‘s ‘Abyssal Gods’. It was avant-core abrasive to the point of irritation for me and this coming from someone who loved Portal‘s latest electrified fence guitar sound. I have to admit I wasn’t entirely sure what effect I could glean from ‘Kur’ on the first two listens, other than some bit of anxiety as I realized I’d have to listen to it at least 3-4 more times.

Ultimately what sets Voidthrone apart from their contemporaries lies in ominous pacing, a holdover from the first album, and experimentation. They haven’t so much gilded their ringing, clangorous sound but given it some necessary texture with traditional Thai instruments including the deeper pitched saw ou (“Their Recursive Communion”), khlui phiang aw flute (“Kur”), as well as the phin (“Modern Hellfire”) which is essentially a lute. They are primarily integrated within transitional instrumental moments but the effect is, at the very least, something texturally divergent from typical extreme metal extras. As I gravitated from focused listening to more casual experiential listening I found more value in these sounds as well as the compelling guitar work from Foodsack and Boyd which feels as advanced and nearly as dynamic as Thantifaxath‘s more recent output.

Were ‘Kur’ to venture beyond 25-30 minutes of my attention span and demand more extensive focus I’d only have admired it’s spectacle briefly and tossed it aside like a dirty sock. As such they’ve kept the length of the arrangements just long enough that the depth and density of the compositions can reveal themselves with repeated listens without bogging the listener down with forced redundancy in the tracklist. It may not lend itself to the best possible first impression, repetition begets reputation, but it does a lot to help Voidthrone retain value across repeated analysis. I think a casual listen could rupture towards chaos and oppressive noise but nothing about ‘Kur’ is so frantic that you should be too overwhelmed to give it a chance. I would suggest sampling either the title track or “Their Recursive Communion” as an introduction and testing your limits thereafter.