(This is Todd Manning‘s review of the first full-length album by California’s VoidCeremony, which was released by 20 Buck Spin on June 26th.)
While some Death Metal bands try to streamline their sound to have hooks and conventional song structures, others seek to create obscure and challenging material that summons images of alien horrors and oddball geometries of terror. VoidCeremony certainly fall into the latter camp. Their debut full-length, Entropic Reflections Continuum:Dimensions Unravel marries progressive technicality with unrelenting brutality to create an incredibly powerful statement.
Consisting of Garrett Johnson on vocals, lead and rhythm guitar, Jon Reider on rhythm guitar, and Charlie Koryn on drums and engineering, VoidCeremony is full of powerhouse musicians. While plenty impressive on their own, they also enlisted the criminally underrated Damon Good (Stargazer, Black Cauldron Ram, Mournful Congregation) on bass for this album as well.
photo by Ian Mann
The first thing apparent on album opener “Sacrosanct Delusions” is the brutality. There are almost immediate whiffs of the sort of crypt stench that can only come from listening to the debuts of Immolation, Incantation, and Morbid Angel in VoidCeremony’s sound. Yet, close listening quickly reveals very challenging song structures writhing beneath the distortion. Tempos shift quickly, riffs get chopped up and spit back out, and the drums provide both a perfect counterpoint and a maelstrom of chaos at the same time. As the song progresses, Good’s fretless bass becomes harder to ignore, providing almost Jazz Fusion-esque lines that never compromise the heaviness.
The second track, “Sacrosanct Delusions”, kicks into high gear immediately with a fast but absolutely perplexing riff. This is followed by a bit of blackened riffing with Good outlining the chords underneath. The song drags the listener through a dizzying labyrinth of blazing riffs and complex drumming, with several stunning passages that show the band working through a myriad of progressions. “Empty Grand Majesty (Cyclical Descent of Causality)” shows VoidCeremony in a slightly more melodic light, referencing classic Emperor. Clocking in at almost nine minutes, this is the album’s most epic song, and it forms the centerpiece of the record. Despite the melodic elements, the punishing complexity remains at the forefront.
Johnson’s lead guitar pops up in several songs, but is particularly impressive on the instrumental “Binded to Unusual Existence”. His style falls somewhere between Ihsahn’s guitar work and the controlled chaos of Trey Azagthoth. Of course the whole band shines here as well. The vocals on the rest of the album are powerful, but with VoidCeremony the true focus is on the musicianship. But this is no shred fest. The songwriting, while not particularly catchy in the conventional sense, is nevertheless memorable, with each transition between the myriad riffs flowing perfectly. The emphasis here is on creating this strange and occult atmosphere, and they achieve that in spades.
The album closes with “Solemn Reflections of the Void”. Within the opening minute of this track there is already a particularly powerful passage where a nearly unhinged blast of speed continues to collide into a few measures of mournful Metal, the tonality almost completely dictated by chords coming from Good’s bass. The song shouldn’t flow, given all the starting and stopping and tempo changes taking place within even individual riffs, yet it does. A little more than halfway through, the group slows down for some excellent Death/Doom. The music is still intensely heavy, but has a more meditative quality. When the speed picks back up, it takes on a more blackened flavor but keeps the melody intact.
VoidCeremony’s 2017 EP Foul Origins of Humanity might have been slept on by many, but hopefully this won’t be the case with Entropic Reflections Continuum: Dimensions Unravel. This album is unique and powerful, technical but also raw and punishing. Having Damon Good along for the ride certainly adds another dimension, but something tells me these guys will be fine if this is his only album with them. Despite excellent performances all around, the true power lies in the insane compositions themselves, never mind the skills it takes to perform them.