(Guest writer Booker returns to NCS after an extended hiatus with this review of the new album by Intervoid from the wilds of northeast Ohio.)
There are those who follow, and then there are those who take another path. We probably all like to think that the world of metal is made up of people who fit into the latter group. Maybe you like to think you’re part of that group, too, and that this bent in your character has made you take the red pill and set in motion a series of events that has led you, inexorably, here. But there’s an even more extreme group who throw all semblance of caution to the wind, raise middle fingers to the gods, and have the temerity to… release an album in December.
I can hear you screaming in disbelief, “Who would do such a thing?!”. Yes, who would… who would violate the sacred sanctity of the year-end list, which now has spread into November like an out-of-control blob consuming ever more months in an ever-increasing race to be first. Maybe these people know something we don’t? Maybe they’ve just got better things to do than to schedule their musical creations around the whims of the internet metal nerds? I have another idea – they are not human. And this brings us to Intervoid, whose debut LP just dropped as a late-breaking treat to top off the year.
Apparently Intervoid are a bunch of guys from Ohio. But to me that just seems like a convenient cover story. Am I supposed to believe that, really? I suspect a bunch of T-800s from the future got sidetracked by Mechina’s Conqueror, Demanufacture-era Fear Factory, a touch of electronica, and set their Psychotic Pulses to work to create a suitably cybernetic soundtrack to the coming Judgement Day.
Just like those movie serial killers who leave calling cards and hints like they’re just wanting to be caught, Intervoid have gone and called their debut album Weaponized and drew a big fuck off armed machine staring down a puny human on the cover. Really, if it goes south from here we can only blame ourselves for not seeing this coming people…
The album opens with The Matrix’s Architect informing us that we’ve been expected *, and proceeds to hammer the senses with “Godlike” (those calling cards, people!). For the next 60-odd minutes an onslaught continues that is best summed up with those familiar cyber-metal descriptors: a series of pulverizing, jackhammer, industrial, machine-gun-riff-imbued soundwaves.
The vocals are generally a standard metal heavy shout/growl, but occasionally take a slightly raspy, more black metal tone. Clean, melodic singing is out, and if anything, dual lines of heavy vocals make an appearance in places. Like many other bands in the cyber genre, lead guitar work is generally minimal, opting away from solos and more into the use of anything resembling lead guitar as coloration and occasional melodic line. Throw in some electronic elements, jumps that sound like an interrupted input feed, and segments of synth and even limited orchestration that could have come from a sci-fi soundtrack, and you’ve got a generous slab of cyber-themed metal throwing down the gauntlet.
Cyber metal is a genre that I think is difficult to genuinely do well. On the one hand the music demands a certain jackhammer, solid beat, but too much straight 4/4 flat-out playing and the sound risks becoming stale and, oddly, boring – even if most fans of the genre gravitate to the sound precisely in order to hear that exact punchy industrial assault. It is simultaneously the source of what many would regard as the genre’s greatest strength, and also its greatest weakness. In this sense, it presents a challenge, where a paradoxical approach is required to provide enough variation, depth, and progression across a track for it to come off well. (Arguably, the same challenge exists for most metal).
This is what makes Weaponized a success in my mind – for the most part, they succeed in nailing this paradox and bring a sound with sufficient songwriting prowess and added color to deliver a truly interesting album. Often with albums I come to love I find it’s the little things – extra melodies hidden in the back, even if I’m only aware of it at a near-unconscious level, a few extra beats added or dropped out of a bar, extra random instruments thrown in, that together add up to make an album really work – and they’re all on show with Weaponized.
The slower section around 1:40 on “Ignited” with barely decipherable chants brings to mind imagery of a religious conversion in a bleak concrete bunker, multiple synth/programmed parts make an appearance that wouldn’t be out of place on an electronic album, such as the intro to “Surrealist Dichotomy”, esoteric guitar lines meander in the background of “There’s Purity In the Silence…”, and various other experimentations add contrast to the overall sonic assault.
Indeed, the album strangely reminded me of something that stuck with me from the review of Khonsu’s Anomalia on NCS by Andy Synn (because I felt the same after getting to know the album):
“Interestingly, the weaker points on the record are actually those where the unusual melange of inhuman sounds and metallic power is pared back, such as on the more purely guitar-oriented parts of “Inhuman States” and “So Cold” – both of them tracks that are far more interesting when they continue to explore the record’s fascination with the synthetic and artificial.”
If anything, in a similar fashion it is the more “straight metal” sounding sections of Weaponized that feel weakest, such as the middle section of “Surrealist Dichotomy”, but thankfully these sections are generally dwarfed by the more varied approach taken on the remainder of the album.
The overall dark tone of the record continues unabated until the penultimate track “Weaponized”, where a sudden change to a more progressive rocky outro takes hold with a decidedly lighter, more optimistic, feel. Followed by “Sentience”, this makes for a great one-two punch to close the album.
“Sentience” features the interesting combination of a relatively slow tempo with a furiously fast machine-gun drum/riff combo, which sets the head bobbing with its slower tempo but blasts you with 10+ beats crammed in between each. A similar track that comes to mind is Mechina’s “Conqueror”, tracking in at a gentle 115bpm but with possibly the fastest rhythm section of the album, or to a lesser extent Meshuggah’s “Swarm”, with its slower beat but straight 16th or something note rhythm section.
On “Sentience”, the gentle keyboard and 80’s sci-fi sounding syth line intro lulls you into a false sense of a softer ending, only to pick up to a flurry of guitars and bass drums, all smothered in a strangely happy mood which leaves a smile on your face but hammers you at the same time; like it’s been designed specifically to overwhelm logic and reason.
With a previous two-song single as the only other release under their belt, with Weaponized Intervoid have made an announcement: “We have arrived”. And with that, we should all start to panic: The calling cards are everywhere — they even spell it out in the album’s final lyrics “You are not alone”.
* bonus points if you get The Architect playing in this piece. What would that bonus be? Islander assures me he’s open to suggestions….
And if you’d like to check out vocalist Ricky Lewis‘ artwork, take a peek at these sites: