(The Unsearchable) Void — The Hollow Man
“This is the end, beautiful friend.”
The end of what, you ask? The end of everything, probably, Void answers. Your salvation, your germline, your credit score—kiss it all goodbye and embrace futility, the secret essence of all things.
Yes yes, didn’t you hear? The planet is heating up. The oceans are turning to acid. Biodiversity is in decline. Nuclear contamination is slowly poisoning us all. The mutation load in the genome is reaching for incredible heights. Plus, there are solar flares and murder hornets and exploding subterranean pockets of deadly methane ice all over Siberia. There are plenty of reasons to live—but no guarantee we’ll have the means to do so for much longer. Solar power? Too late. 3-D printing? That’s for guns. Mars? Pfffft. There’s nothing up there. What about The Algorithm, though? Can’t The Algorithm save us? No—The Algorithm wants us dead.
None of which is to say that the end can’t be any fun. Void’s new vision of our apocalypse may be dark and horrific, but their translation of this vision into music is a party for your ears. The Hollow Man, their third full-length album, is deVoid of teary-eyed laments or nauseatingly righteous anger or preaching, and instead chock-full of that singular force that has always been the heart of their avantgarde black metal: insanity.
Only here, it is taken to extremes at just about every opportunity. The lunatics are not only running the asylum—they’ve got the schools and the banks and prestigious government positions, too, and the apocalypse to which they are so batshittingly leading us will be neither a sombre funeral nor an immolation but rather a pure mockery of everything that we, the species, have ever accomplished. The maniacs dismantling our world are too stupid to put it back together—and they’re having too much fun to care.
What does any of this mean for The Hollow Man in terms of composition, style, audio experience? It means that the tag “black metal” applies but also doesn’t. It means that there is nothing to expect around every new corner except more of the ghastly unexpected (for instance, some jazz-rock with a distinctly urban feel or a minstrel’s ballad). And it means that pretty much every minute of The Hollow Man is layered beyond belief: with gorgeous string arrangements, with electronic touches that can only be properly appreciated through headphones, and with a veritable cacophony of vocal styles all yelling over one another as they vie for your precious (because scarce) attention.
Jesus, the vocals. I hope you like your nuts mixed, because you’re gonna get cashews, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, chestnuts (and I know some of these are not technically nuts, some are legumes or whateverthefuck a drupe is). Growls. Shrieks. Snarls. Choruses. Whispers. Indoor voices. And female voices, I think, although in all the confusion they could just as easily be male falsettos. Heck, there’s even a bit where some young girls sing some spooky shit about a “prickly pear.” I can’t really make out most of the lyrics, so who knows exactly what these birdbrains [You’re begging for some semi-colons with comments like that. ~Roldy] are all chattering about, but no voice ever hangs around or sits still for long, so boredom is almost impossible. (Almost: I have no patience for spoken word passages of any length, and there are a lot of them peppered throughout this record, so yeah, there are a few boring bits. And while we’re on the no-fun topic of things for which I have no patience: samples from movies or TV shows are another one of those, and The Hollow Man is fairly pregnant with them, so there’s that). (And while we’re on the topic of samples from movies, my lovely and talented assistant somehow noticed that one of the samples is from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which is hilarious, not so much because I didn’t catch it as because I’m quite sure that was the only part of the record that made any sense to her pleb-ass ears.)
Before I forget, let’s talk about the other instruments for a minute (I always end up painted into this corner). Drums are my favorite, so first I’ll say that the drum performance on this record is spectacular, full of fire and nuance and raw enough to sound like a very good drummer beating the life out of his drums. I like that he always seems to be doing something intricate, and that the intricacies sometimes get lost in the tumult because the drums aren’t triggered or quantized or any of that wizard garbage that makes me want to vote. As for the guitar, it is almost pernicious how the rousing riffs and virtuoso fretwork tend to hide behind the bombast of the drums and the brainsick theatrics of the vocals—but if you can tune in to what the guitar is doing, you’ll quickly realize that your perception of its modesty was the result of a grand deception. There really isn’t a modest moment to be found on The Hollow Man. (I mean, the bass guitar is mostly so unobtrusive that it might not even be there—but that is as it should be.)
Nor is there much in the way of pomposity for pomposity’s sake, sometimes referred to by technicians as wank. No razzle, no dazzle. (No saxophone.) The commitment to bedlam is not window dressing, but a core aesthetic. Given that guitarist and main composer Matt Jarman recently did a live cameo with Dødheimsgard, I can only assume that Void (the most unsearchable band on the internet*) draws a great deal of inspiration from Norway’s halcyon days of avant-garde black metal. Buuuuuuuut…yeah, no, that stuff has been dead for a long time now and Void is basically dancing a piss-drunk jig on its grave.
Is there too much going on here? Absolutely. This is the end, beautiful friend. Time to vomit all your conflicting hopes and dreams and fears into being before you can’t because you, like everything else you know and love, are kaput. Constraint will get us nowhere. You don’t need to sit in your room drawing pictures of imaginary dead friends. You don’t need to be out on the streets trying (with violence) to change a world that has no future. You don’t need to go on sitting with a sunken heart at your window, watching your doorstep for new packages from You Know Who. You don’t need to keep giving Netflix your money. We have no use for your tears. We don’t need your final withering judgments. We just want the celestial music of your nonsensical self-negating exuberance in apotheosis.
You have gone insane, and everyone knows it but you. So feel free to begin LARPing your old nudist wiccan half-elf necromancer character from D&D, and let Void’s The Hollow Man remind you how.
The Hollow Man was released by Duplicate Records digitally on 26 February, 2021, and will be available on vinyl on April 17th.
*Just try searching for Void on this very website and see if you can find them.
(Band photo via Facebook)