Svart is a small Finnish label, that despite being independent, and from a country with a small population, is managing to produce some excellent albums of late. Even searching just the website you’re currently reading (go on, use the little box top right of your screen, you know you want to!) you’ll see what I mean. When the editor came to dole out albums for review, I pitched up for Church of Void’s ‘Dead Rising’ based on just the quality of the two releases from the label I have reviewed this year, the excellent releases from Victor Griffin and Brutus (again, read and enjoy). So, never having heard of Church of Void, and coming to them afresh, how did this self defined purveyor of “New wave of traditional doom rock/metal from Finland” play?
When I first saw the album cover, a black and white close up of a face in possible deathly repose, something tickled memories at the back of my brain, but I wasn’t sure what until I started on the second listen of the album, but I’ll tell you later. Opener ‘Tristess’ strutted out of my speakers with a nice “doom ‘n’ roll” stamp, faster than many other doom acts, the beat of the drums and in your face riffs providing hooks aplenty to drag the listener in, and within a few bars I felt myself nodding along nicely, only the fact I was sat in front of my computer rather than at a club preventing a full on bang along. This same stripped back sound equally prevailed in the follow up tracks ‘Son of a Witch’, and ‘Winter Is Coming’, both unpretentious numbers that the band should have no trouble reproducing live, being testament to musicianship rather than a product of an engineer’s over polishing.
It was with the title track, ‘Dead Rising’, that Church of Void demonstrate their class and musicianship; starting with a simple acoustic guitar that then melds into a truly melancholic eight and a half minute epic that combines the sombre tones of Paradise Lost, without the vague industrial hints, with the misery of Woods of Ypres, but with some almost punk urgency to the song’s climax. It was at this point I worked out what the album cover reminded me of; an amalgam of Woods of Ypres ‘Grey Skies & Electric Light’ with Trouble’s ‘Simple Mind Condition’; artistically, and musically, that is how the album sounds. A combination of the graveyard sorrow of the sadly now finished Woods of Ypres with the classic doom of Trouble, a sound reinforced by the tearful delivery of ‘Owls Are Listening’. Whilst for a scant three minutes the tempo is upped for ‘The Magician’ a textbook exercise in Sabbathesque rock, it is with the last two far more epic tracks of the album, ‘Entity of Kalyspo’ and ‘Little Child Lost’ that Church of Void excel. Between them they may be over fifteen minutes, a timescale probably inconceivable to the modern instant gratification X factor generation, yet they are superlative. Stripped back, simple in execution, with nothing more than two guitars, bass, drums, and vocals, they defy the necessity of a mixer’s tricks to provide the listener with a challenging and rewarding album.
I’m not normally a fan of the depressive and downbeat, but can only recommend Church of Void’s ‘Dead Rising’ for an intelligent listen. Damn me if my “Top 10” of 2013 list is already swollen to bursting and it’s only August!