Review: Voidhaven ‘Lithic’

While the cliché advises against judging a book by its cover, Voidhaven‘s album Lithic makes it hard not to do so. This Hamburg quintet conjures up the vibe and imagery of a brutal, misty past drenched with atmospheric melancholy that is perfectly captured by their grandiose, dismal artwork. The album title is related to humanity’s early use of stone tools. This is wholly appropriate for the band’s latest offering, however, despite its dramatic, fist-clenching weight, this is an artistic album with cold, folk-tinged melodies and cathedral like grandeur.

Voidhaven 'Lithic' Artwork
Voidhaven ‘Lithic’ Artwork

Voidhaven combines elements of funeral doom with their own unique additions, which include some accomplished songwriting and energy. That said, they have got some serious doom pedigree behind them, featuring members of Remembrance, Ophis and Fvneral Fvkk. Funeral-inspired doom can be quite a narrow field, making it ripe for innovation. Voidhaven shows what can be achieved when other influences are allowed to percolate in the mix. There is more than a little death metal in this album, and it’s an asset.

The first track, Resting On Tombs, opens with twinkling synths and pensive minor melodies that set up pummelling guitars and drums that hit you like a crashing wave. There is plenty of classic-sounding funereal doom, but that doesn’t mean it’s all feedback and inertia. The band brings in sparing guitar chugs and double kicks on the drums to keep the energy high while the vocalist, Simon Schorneck, drags the listener through the auditory mill. In fact, Schorneck deserves recognition for his impressive range, which seamlessly transitions from guttural retches to captivating clean singing.

It is gratifying to be able to easily engage with the lyrical themes of the music as well (and I love Demilich btw). For a band seemingly embittered by the weight of the past and the gloom of the world, there are some more relatable themes running through about finding your place in a gloaming world: ‘Barren landscapes painted in shades of apathy, ghostly I roam’.

an artistic album with cold, folk-tinged melodies and cathedral like grandeur…

The songwriting is very impressive across Lithic, you don’t notice a ‘drop in heaviness’ between the heavy guitar, church organ and double kick sections that lead into atmospheric introspective sections or even quite beautiful piano breaks, as on The Everblazing Picture, courtesy of keys player Marcos Lege. The rhythm section under bass player Jakob and drummer Norman operate much like a death metal unit, totally in synch and this retains the power of the tracks giving the guitar leads room to fully expand. The Desolate Throne in particular showcases the strength of this with some of the most captivating soloing on the album.

This strain of doom can be a little too inspired by the melodic gothic sounds of My Dying Bride, and while they are certainly an influence (Sermon Of Scorn’s intro has a bit of nod to this), Voidhaven have re-energised and expanded what this sonic pallet can do. And it turns out quite a lot. In fact, for a genre known for being incredibly slow, the band have a great sense of head-nodding groove and a keen sense of when to incorporate death metal elements at the right moments.

Sometimes they are a little too sparing, however, on Something Cruel Within, the bruising final track shows off what happens when they just let the beast out. It would also be remiss not to mention the track To Walk Among Ghosts, arguably one of the tarnished jewels in this lead crown, just because it’s so transporting; bringing to mind a desolate landscape and iron grey skies dispersed with a leaden, heavy groove that most doom bands wish they had come up with.

One minor suggestion for the band members would be to consider adopting more ‘kvlt’ pseudonyms to go with the sound and look of the album. The rest they seem to have got nailed down. Crushingly well.

Label: Ardua Music
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp

Scribed by: James Bullock