Proving that Italians can do the doomy, post-metal thing just as well as anyone else, mysterious and methodical five-piece group John, the Void’s 2014 self-titled EP (which actually runs a bit longer than what I might typically expect from an extended play) features six tracks ranging from two minute ambient pieces to sprawling, nine-minute epics. Throughout this very atmospheric but sometimes bleak album, I was most appreciative of the level of precision in the instrumental parts and the quality of the production of the album. All in all, it’s a very solid debut release from a veteran group of players.
John, the Void kicks off with “The eleventh,” a track in which droning didgeridoo-like tones pulse under scratchy and screechy industrial crackle and pop. Slowly building in intensity over its duration, the end of this opener fades out and eventually gives way to the more traditional, guitar-driven opening to second track “In rows.” Playing out to a drudging, slow headband tempo, this track is the first to introduce growling, screamy vocals that actually fit nicely alongside the unsettling instrumental melodies. Initially, I thought these vocals might have been in Italian since I couldn’t make out a single syllable, but apparently they’re performed in extremely drawn-out English, describing dark fantasy imagery. It’s actually somewhat fortunate that it is difficult to make out the words since these vocals work extremely well as an additional sound element in the tracks rather than something a listener really needs to concentrate on. Having sudden, well-executed changes in tempo and a pensive interlude section which shows off complex guitar interactions, this second track finishes with a bed of alarming escalating noise which slowly builds into the start of the third track, probably my favorite on the album.
Right off the bat, nine-minute-long third track “Quiescence” has a more punchy feel to it established by hammering snare drum rhythm and chug-a-lug guitar parts, but the track works itself into a haunting and profound interlude section which is perhaps where the piece gets its name. Despite the calmness of this section though, it actually heightens the intensity of the piece significantly while also providing a bit of a respite from the louder main body of the song. Mixing during this piece is outstanding: all the sounds are isolated from one another enough so that a listener can focus on the different elements - the wonderful echoed guitar part heard during the track’s first segment for instance. Crunchy instrumental outbursts show up late in the track and it concludes with a spacey conclusion showcasing a lonely, warbly guitar melody.
Another rather lengthy piece, “The reversionist” takes a while to get where its going but has a slick coda as the payoff. There’s almost a post-rock sort of vibe to this track as it works through a deliberately agonizing opening punctuated by strained vocals, quiet sections of icy and serene guitar melody, and finally a noisy ending of shrieky discordant noise. Fifth track “Ascension” is easily the most energetic, with a sound more typical of mainstream heavy metal due to its outstanding, technical riffage. The album finishes with the ghostly instrumental “The seventh,” a relaxing conclusion to an album that takes the listener on a journey through numerous musical peaks and valleys.
As much as I can usually go one way or the other with regard to music that features growling or screamed vocals, John the Void definitely gets the formula right. The vocals here only enhance the already well-established gloomy atmosphere of the album as a whole - a group like Indonesia’s Maur might do well to pay attention to how the vocals here are utilized and mixed. John, the Void has a very polished sound to it, due both to the outstanding production and the accomplished musicianship of the players, and I’d certainly recommend this album to fans of stoner or doom metal. This is one of the better bandcamp finds I’ve made in a while.
8.0 / 10
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