Voices - London

'----------------- Open Curtain!
This Performed Exhibition is about to begin --------------------

As readers to these pages notice, I rarely ever contribute with a review. A past zine editor & radio show DJ who due to lack of time refuses to accept promos from anyone, I feed my love for reviewing by sporadically discovering gems myself, and writing about them out of free will.

A case in point is VOICES' somophore release by the name of  "London". Not just a gem, but a masterpiece!

Having caught my attention 2 years ago experiencing them live for the 1st time supporting another band I knew, I had then described them as "spite vs mankind". Now already at their 2nd release, they have an emergency about them that is the foundation of what a band should be - the need to challenge and improve the template. This they do by presenting a concept album that is not songs for headbangers out to party (so many of this stuff nowadays pfff) but those with a higher power of deviousness where musical, lyrical and presentation skills come first. Anybody remembers A.O.R? I will term VOICES on "London" as A.O.M (Adult Oriented Misanthropy), that cuts no corners at that!

Opening up with an acoustic guitar-meet-piano-meet clean vocal song that could pass as a sweet lullaby, make no mistake as its title bears a lesser sweet "Suicide Note", which sets the aura for the disturbing concept to follow throughout "London" from a lyrical point - is this a character? more than one? living now or in the past? learning from past killers to re-enact his own depravities now? or is this just a play where the character is naught but a professional protagonist acting a script written by disturbed directors? is it all dream or part of it is reality?

"Tonight rains for us, only for the sick, and the lonely and the horrow and broken" opens the first hit-in-the-punch that is "Music for the Recently Bereaved", a song that confirms the ferocity VOICES established on their debut "From a Human Forest Create a Fugue of Imaginary Rain", and that is later pummelled through again on "Voracious Lover". No surprise when the backbone of this band is none but David Gray, ex-My Dying Bride & ex-Akercocke, a blastman of reverred excellence, here accompanied by 2 other ex-Akercockers, namely Peter Benjamin (their bassist turned vocalist/guitarist/pianist) & Sam Loynes (their keyboardist turned guitarist/pianist hear also lending his craft in producing an amazing artwork - BUY the CD to experience it fuckers!).

All in-house one may observe, as production is held by their bassist Dan Abela. A non-flashy production that is yet distinctive enough to allow double bass drums not over-crowd acoustic guitars in the middle of train-speed songs, and underlying FX that merge seamlessly with the danger element a decent extreme metal band can provide, and which VOICES provide aplenty. Did I say “danger”? Yes, that element so missing in nowadays metal. Did I say “aplenty”? Yes, as VOICES do have lots of menace under their belt!

All this is topped by a vocalist who is just a maniac! And that is a compliment, as metal needs more and more of them! At times his banshee vocals are disturbing and you ask yourself "but does he not hear himself in pre-production?". But then, after you listen to the whole palette he exploits - from growls, to screams, to whispers, to pitch-perfect clean vocals (amazing throughout but shining on my personal fave "The Antidote"), you understand that these banshee vocals are necessary to the concept around the lyrics, where the characters are suffering, and there is only one way for the listener to feel that sufferance, through Peter Benjamin acting as a medium, delivering the burden from the depths of his lungs.

Especially on "Last Train Victoria Line" he, as the protagonist in the script written for him, screams for liberation out of a soul that does not seek neither understanding nor redemption, as he asks the character supposedly sitting on the opposite seat "did you spread your legs for him the way you do for me? did you gaze into his eyes the way you gaze at mine? did you ever think of him when you're here with me? do you ever picture him when you're fucking me?". Fuck, these guys are obsessed, with a song entitled zilch but “The Fuck Trance” and an ongoing loop during "Hourglass" that delivers home a message that "we are the sex people".

Is hard to pin-point anything about VOICES - it is all in a framework taking cues from unknown directors. Vocally, it borrows from DIARY OF DREAMS (or goth of the similar ilk) in the tamer melodic parts, a lot from VED BUENS ENDE in the baritone department, and early IN THE WOODS when it comes to screaming, but more as far as timbres rather than influences, as in Benjamin's vast range of vocals, nothing comes through as plagiarism. On the contrary, he intertwines the above comparisons, and more within his vocal range, giving life to the various characters from a script, where each feeling gets a different voice.

Musically, obviously (due its members' past) but minimally, it leans towards AKERCOCKE (too less solos and no grind at all), but in its whole, stands on its feet as a band with its own identity, this, intensified by the narratives between songs talking about coffee shops, rubbish bins, a recurring suicide note, bridges & alleys, footfalls of Westminster, poison, the acrimonious Cold Harbour Lane, cold buses, pestilential skies, soul-less travellers – a script or indeed a reality in nowadays' London?

Time and time again, we have heard concept albums, where each song is long. And I personally am a fan of long songs, because I like lots of riffs/variations in one song, and without sometimes the art lacks detail. So this is definitely a masterpiece, because of its 13 songs (I am excluding “The Final Portrait of an Artist” which is the only stand-alone narrative not included within a song), 8 of them  - that is nearly 2/3rds of the CD - clock at less than 4 mins, yet still include a myriad of variations that progress seamlessly. Simply put, this album is sheer class!

To sum up, 5 points really struck my fancy throughout “London” - how well acoustic guitars are intertwined within extreme metal passages; the presence of a drum solo with underlying cinematic noir effects & the voice of "Megan" half-way through (since when do we have drum solos within songs that furthermore end up sounding just naturally in place?);  the narratives between songs that give it a War of the Worlds feel; the myriad of intertwining rhythmic styles with complimentary versatility (e.g. prog beats sipping through “The Voracious Lover” and latin beats vs blast infernos bringing “The Ultimate Narcissist” to a close); the vocalist's range helping one live all characters' agony! All of these top ace soundscapes re-confirm this concept album as not a collection of songs, but as one long sonic extreme music theatre.

Lyrically, it is indirect at most times behind a "mask to disguise the depravity we seek". In fact, who was Megan? A sexually exploited train passenger, a model who allowed only monochrome pictures of herself, an escaped mental health patient? Who knows, only VOICES know. Or  maybe not even them actually - they got them voices in their head, and they now letting both Megan and their voices loose, to allow us a glimpse through the directors' eyes.

Yes, we, the directors of London, the featureless yet shameless Londoners (or any other capital city  citizen for the matter), sure as fuck thinking twice before taking the Victoria Line late at night again!

But wait, this is just a play not?
Or a moving review, of which they are jealous?
“Do you understand?” ----------  (add one final banshee vocals here!)-----------

In any case, FUCK OFF NOW! Pre-order this CD here to boost your miserable existence!

----------------- Curtain close! --------------------

1. Suicide Note
2. Music For The Recently Bereaved
3. The Actress
4. Vicarious Lover
5. Megan
6. Imaginary Sketches Of A Poisoned Man
7. The Antidote
8. The Fucktrance
9. Hourglass
10. The House Of Black Light
11. The Final Portrait Of The Artist 
12. Last Train Victoria Line
13. The Ultimate Narcissist
14. Cold Harbour Lane