It’s Hard to Follow up a Masterpiece: VoicesFrightened

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Voices is an experimental black/post-black metal band from London, formed by members of the experimental blackened death metal band Akercocke after they had split up. Akercocke reformed in 2016 with a new lineup and the members of Voices kept up with their own project.

Voices caught my eye when they came up under similar artists while I was listening to Altar of Plagues, and their album London quickly became one of my favorite albums of all time. To say it’s bleak is an understatement. It’s a concept album influenced by the film The End of The Affair, based on the classic novel of the same name about jealousy, desperation, and obsession. London gave an extremely strong impression, with narration interludes to set the themes and place in the story, and liner notes that set every lyric of the song as if in an unaddressed letter telling the story of a man in the big city where the cold and grime and loneliness push his own neuroses to a climactic explosion of violence, misogyny, obsession, paranoia, addiction, and a view of suicide as a legitimate option.

I’m not being hyperbolic when I say London was a masterpiece. As such my expectations for the next album were high. So when the group began dropping some teaser material earlier this year I began gearing up for another masterpiece. Then on April 27 the new album, Frightened, dropped. I think I unfairly pushed some expectations onto the new album, especially as it’s apparently a love letter to all of the band’s influences from the 80’s: goth rock and dark pop bands like Bauhaus, Joy Division, Siouxsie and The Banshees, and The Cure. This is a very different approach compared to a concept album with a strong story to inform the music and overall arch of the album.

Frightened is much less harsh than its predecessor, though still very dark. It’s a lot more introspective than London was, with more themes of outside forces acting upon the character—as seen especially in the track “Home Movies”—than the character acting upon someone. Some of the lyrical writing is also a bit more on-the-nose, for example in “Dead Feelings” with the line “death is all I have left in this life.”

“Evaporated” is one of the closest tracks to the sounds I had gotten used to from the band, though the Bauhaus influence is abundantly clear here, with monotonous baritone vocals chanting over repeated instrumental lines before things switch to a feel similar to The Cure toward the end. This is the track that makes the love letter to the 80’s the most obvious.

Frightened was a bit of an acquired taste for me after I had made the mistake of putting my own expectations into it, as the sound is pretty different from the previous album, with some tracks having an almost metalcore feeling to them. But the focus here is less on experimentation than it is on imitation and transformation. Once you shift gears, Frightened is still a quality album, it’s just in the tough position of following up one of the strongest albums I’ve ever heard.

4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

Frightened is out on Candlelight Records.

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