Storytelling as an art form has existed for thousands of years. That doesn’t make crafting a good story any easier, especially in the musical world. The tries and failures of musicians to piece together story through music are well documented and the often grandiose designs of the concept album have been at times better left on the cutting room floor. However, when done properly, when story and sound merge to form a perfect union there is often nothing better. England’s Voices have returned with a story to tell, and an amazingly jaw-dropping way of delivering it.
Made up of former members of Akercocke and My Dying Bride, Voices are about to drop their sophomore album onto North American shores in the form of London, an album that is poised to cement these gentlemen into the collective metal consciousness of a new continent. London is a concept album about, essentially, the seedy underbelly of one of the world’s most populace and popular cities, as told through the harrowing and bizarre experiences of its lead character. Like all great modern metropolises, London is often seen through the tourist’s rose-colored glasses while the rest of the world rarely, if ever, sees the forgotten citizens of its slums, the unwelcome and unwanted sons and daughters hidden away in dark corners. In that sense London could be New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Rio, Rome, etc., etc., etc. It might matter less the wheres of this album as it does the who and the whats. But London it is as a sordid story replete with disreputable people, places and things unfolds amidst a varied backdrop of musical depravity, complete with a full spectrum of samplings from across the metal landscape.
The album opens with the serene, yet aptly titled, “Suicide Note”, a track which, despite it’s ambiance and beauty is an ominous piece of music, setting the stage for the mayhem to follow. Acoustic guitar, piano and clean vocals form a tranquil, yet depressive, interlude, the likes of which will make comebacks throughout several tracks on the album, each time only offering a slight respite. Tracks like “Music for the Recently Bereaved”, “Imaginary Sketches of a Poisoned Man”, and “The FuckTrance” offer the antithesis to these moments of darkened sanity as waves of tortured screams and merciless growls are laid upon a bed of nails complete with hellfire blast beats, all while atmospheric riffs wander through the song like the wretch wandering these proverbial London back alleys. Finally the occasional spoken word passages are used to keep the story moving forward with triumphant success, allowing the listener a direct glimpse into a world painted in hues of filth and grime.
Where Voices reign supreme is not just their ability to weave together a decent narrative, but in the music itself and how it is all presented and executed. Voices, simply put, are a band that is unafraid of musical exploration. Their ability to seamlessly meld together genres as varied as black and death metal with dark folk and prog rock, among so many others, would be commendable in attempt alone. But the success in which they’ve been able to so perfectly paint this shadow world with music, beyond how they are describing it directly in words, makes this album one of the most distinctive and engaging metal albums in recent memory. It’s an album completely bereft of peers on so many levels.
London will be out in North America on January 27 via Candlelight Records. You can experience the entire album at the Candlelight Records Bandcamp page.