Today we premiere a full stream of Lithic, the debut album by Hamburg-based Voidhaven, arriving five years and many hardships after their self-titled debut EP. It provides a masterful union of stylistic ingredients from different corners of the vast realm of Doom, sectors where death/doom, funeral doom, and trad doom reign in their haunted, ice-cold castles. Both instrumentally elaborate and vocally multi-faceted, the album is completely captivating.
Perhaps this won’t come as a surprise after you learn that the band’s line-up is composed of veterans, and includes members of such bands as Ophis, Fvneral Fvkk, and Remembrance. Yet as noted above, the writing and completion of the album didn’t come easy, but the time enabled care and attention to detail. And that’s probably a good place to begin, with the band’s own extensive statement of how the album came to exist and what they sought to achieve:
“Let’s cut the typical promotional fabrications. Let’s just say, if you like your Doom Metal crushing yet melodic, you should definitely check this first Voidhaven album out, it might be the right stuff for you!
“While working on it, we had no specific goal or concept in mind other than writing a good full-length album. We aimed to build on the qualities of our first EP, while simultaneously extending the stylistic scope between the different songs a little and up the production quality.
“The songs on Lithic were written in a period of 5-6 years. That gave the music and lyrics time to grow and in some cases undergo a few changes. Of course, at the end of the day it is always melancholic Doom/Death Metal, because that is simply the style in which we like to express ourselves. But for instance some developments in the world left a mark on our lyrical themes. We still process personal struggles and experiences, but there’s also a socially critical note in them, that is kind of new for us.
“Overall, the album turned out a bit darker and heavier than the EP, which was also greatly aided by the production from Jens Ballaschke. We wanted this vibe to be reflected in the album title and artwork, which were both chosen or rather created after the studio production was finished. For us, the term Lithic encompasses both a state and a feeling, that not only fits the songs, but also describes a condition that many individuals and societies seem to find themselves in.
“Since the drawn-out creation process of this album was not always easy for us, we are very glad and satisfied with how it turned out in the end. We hope you also dig it and thank you for your support!
“Take care and doom on.”
Now we have some thoughts of our own about the experience that lies ahead of you.
The album opener “Resting on Tombs” provides an introduction to many, but not all, of the musical ingredients that Voidhaven bring to the table on the new record — piercing melodies that mesmerize and haunt the mind, a rhythm section that produces humongous heaving and pounding heaviness, gritty dungeon-level growls and singing that soars, and an overarching atmosphere of crushing menace and the sorrow of stricken souls.
That opener also includes other enthralling accents — the rumble of thunder, an elegant but melancholy piano interlude, gloomy spoken words, and a finale enhanced by symphonic synths that causes the music to tower in ruined grandeur.
The song is also longer than average, but there’s only one other album track that’s shorter (and only slightly shorter), with all the rest exceeding its length, especially “To Walk Among Ghosts” at 10 minutes and the 11-minute closer “Something Cruel Within“. Despite the significant song lengths, however, they don’t overstay their welcome. The band’s evident strategy, which repeatedly succeeds, was to use the time to spirit the listener away from the mundane world, to produce dark reveries and to shake the soul (as well as the spine and skull).
As in the album opener, the success of that strategy across the other tracks is anchored by Voidhaven‘s knack for crafting soulful but stricken melodies, both instrumentally and vocally, and their repeated creation of stark contrasts in sound and mood.
Every song is heavy enough to make you feel like the earth is quaking beneath your feet or like megaton bombs are detonating just outside your door; the growled vocals scrape like bone saws; and when the music towers (as it always eventually will), the effect is both awe-inspiring and apocalyptic, wondrous but hopeless. On the other hand, the recurring contributions of the piano and vocalist Simon‘s solemn and soaring singing voice create softer moments of reverent remembrance and poignant grief.
“To Walk Among Ghosts” provides a striking example of those contrasts, creating a stunning amalgam of funeral doom, traditional doom, and doom/death. Moaning and glittering guitars drench the listener in feelings of deep loss and loneliness; there’s a call-and-response between the two vocal styles that’s gripping; and the song also heaves like a behemoth and jolts like a big pile-driver. The melodies carried by guitar, keys, and vocals are clarion-clear and deeply affecting, and the song’s grooves are massive and punishing.
Voidhaven don’t move fast. Even on a song named “The Everblazing Picture“, they mainly stagger at the pace of a wounded giant. But there are blazing glories in that song — magnificent guitar solos that extend like beseeching hands, singing performances that reach high in spine-tingling tones, and the beautiful embellishments of piano and symphonic strings. You’ll also discover, though you may not see it coming, that this song is one of the times when Voidhaven kick into a rocking groove and allow a measure of buoyant hope to become manifest.
To be clear, even though hope and joy are generally foreign to the realms where Voidhaven make their haunted home, there’s a lot of beauty to be found in the album’s glimmering instrumental reverberations, in its episodes of looming magnificence, and of course in the heart-felt and heart-breaking singing (“The Desolate Throne” provides a particularly stunning example of all those qualities). If we imagine their home, it might be like a crumbling mansion or ruined gothic castle in some netherworld that never sees the light of day, a place where the dead yet roam, crushed by loss but still remembering and seeking the life that left them.
Lithic will be released on June 9th by Ardua Music, on CD and digital formats, and it’s available for pre-order now. It comes recommended for fans of My Dying Bride, Swallow The Sun, Hamferd, Saturnus, and Officium Triste.