As 2023 draws to a close, it’s easy to believe that the year is over for solid new music getting released. While we are all starting to look forward to next year, and for some of us especially, are looking back over the previous months, with an aim to compile a best of 2023 list of albums, that doesn’t mean that its all done by any means.
Over the course of these past months, I have been part of this shared experience, The Sleeping Shaman, where we are in a position to be getting exposed to new music on a daily basis, and in doing so, it really takes something special to stand out from the crowd. Add to that having music recommended too, it can, at times, be utterly overwhelming.
This is why, when things do start to calm down, it’s just as important to keep the fingers on the pulse and continue to expose and champion new bands and albums as they come up. Recently I had the honour of reviewing the new Unverkalt album, and what a revelation it was, with one of the most unique vocals of the year, which proved that even at this late stage, there are always a few surprises left.
The same can be said for this, the new album by The Answer Lies In The Black Void. Quite a unique experience indeed. It has been a revelation really as it wasn’t at all what I was expecting when I agreed to review it.
Considering that it has such a full sound, it was a bit of a surprise to find that The Answer Lies In The Black Void is actually only a duo. Made up of Martina Horváth, who provides all the vocal experience, and Jason Köhnen, who also plays in multiple other bands, including Bong Ra and Celestial Season, providing the accompanying music, it’s a real feat of creativity indeed. Having quite an eclectic sound, it reminds me at times of early Anneke era The Gathering, and likewise, early Lacuna Coil. The structure of the work nudges those mid to late ‘90s comparisons, and for me, this is no bad thing, as I adore The Gathering, and I love Lacuna Coil too.
Nestled quite firmly in the doom genre of things, there is also that late ‘90s Century Media European metal sound in the mix and as much as it is a new release, it could easily be marketed as a hark back to those days of still importing obscure music and swapping names of bands through friends.
a heavy ride filled with venomous highs, entwined with softer elements, which will have you captivated…
Thou Shalt is the second album by the duo and picks up where Forlorn left off in 2021. It is nine tracks of moody, doom infused melancholy, all wrapped up in what feels like a warm recognisable blanket, used to snuggle into on a cold winter’s day. Just shy of forty-five minutes in total, it’s heavy, emotive music, guaranteed to push and pull you in multiple different directions, all at the same time.
Right from the opening track Ataraxia there is a real sense of that nostalgia in the sound. Even from the first listen it had me fixated with its large hooks and otherworldly atmosphere. Huge slabs of chugging guitar over thumping drums give a firm foundation to an ethereal vocal, sublime and soft against the hard-edged backdrop.
It feels at times like it has a perpetual and never-ending drudge to it, where tracks reach a pinnacle, and then travel along at that same pitch indefinitely, while on others, highs and lows break up the consistency.
Tracks such as Jhieronymus are really where I find my feet with it all. The juxtaposition between the cooler, moodier introduction, and the heavier, more menacing sections, really intrigues me. It takes everything I’ve heard up to this point (we are six tracks in by now) and adds a new dimension, previously unheard of.
For me though, the real stand out is track five, Shallow Work. This is where I put the real pinnacle of the experience. It really does show the band at the top of their creativity and vibrance, and what an offering it is. The bursts of intensity are unrivalled, and the mix of guttural screeches courtesy of Chelsea Murphy along with Martina’s clean vocals really do step this one above the rest.
Overall, it’s a heavy ride filled with venomous highs, entwined with softer elements, which will have you captivated, if you let it. One of the last great albums of 2023, check it out, embrace it, and love it for all its worth.
Scribed by: Lee Beamish