THE ANSWER LIES IN THE BLACK VOID – THOU SHALT
LABEL: Roadburn Records
RELEASE: October 13th, 2023
AUTHOR: Paul Hutchings
02. To Kill The Father
03. In Obsidian Clouds
04. Virgin Fire
05. Shadow Work
07. Thou Shalt
Serene, invoking imagery of darkness, sweeping soundscapes tear and twist at the emotions. The latest album by THE ANSWER LIES IN THE BLACK VOID is a work of magical beauty. The duo, a collaboration of Martina Horváth from avant-garde metal project Thy Catafalque and Jason Köhnen from Celestial Season, The Lovecraft Sextet, Bong-Ra, ex-The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, have followed up on their 2021 debut “Forlorn” with a haunting sophomore release that is of exceptionally high quality.
The prevalent element here is doom, but there is so much more buried deep within the dark vaults of this compelling record. The opening song “Ataraxia” is a deep, richly layered song, with Horváth demonstrating her stunning vocals over the complex creativity of Köhnen, the multi-instrumentalist who takes responsibility for everything instrument-driven here. There are crushing riffs, harrowing passages which send shivers down the spine, and all the time the atmosphere builds. Tendrils of darkness curl around the throat on “To Kill The Father”, with Horváth’s shimmering vocals duelling with the echoing lead guitar work.
“Thou Shalt” is an album that is almost impenetrable on first listen. It needs time to soak into the senses, for the listener to absorb the combinations that are unravelling around them. The slow, crushing oppressiveness is countered by the delicate, ethereal elements. At times there is such beauty in this release that you can become completely disoriented. “In Obsidian Clouds” and “Virgin Fire” come at you from completely different angles, yet both can hit you hard. The latter moves in mysterious patterns, Horváth’s mournful voice drifting over the repeated percussive loops as the song builds. No need for lyrics, her soulful echoing notes do everything that is needed. It’s progressive in a dark and sombre, yet enchanting manner.
It’s difficult to talk about an album that is laden with so much doom, but which somehow provides incredible variation. “Shadow Work” is completely understated for the first minute, but then ricochets into a more traditional style, complete with some unexpected savagery, demonic screams that contrast with the clean, soaring singing. There’s a huge swing towards the heavier spectrum here, a collision of styles that seems at odds but also feels totally at home with the overall feel of this album.
Elsewhere, there is the angular complexity of “Jhieronymus”, an evocative, mesmeric piece jars with it’s avant-doom approach. It’s far from traditional, although the riffs are evidently borrowed from the godfathers of doom themselves, Candlemass. The title track switches tempo, a lone piano opening the song whilst sinister noises flicker in the background, before organ, vocals and drums weave their magic. The bridge from the title track to the final song is “Purgatory”, a short, two-minute track that has shades of progressive giants Opeth as well as a myriad of other influences. It leads to the conclusion of an album that lingers for eons post finale. “Vaporize” is a seven-minute epic, which slowly builds in majestic style, dark, gothic doom intertwined with lighter, progressive sections, strings and echoing effects all culminate in a song that requires many listens to fully explore.
Put simply, this is an album that needs to be heard. Ideally with headphones in a room with darkness enveloping you. Maybe some flickering candlelight. But otherwise, it’s a soundtrack which brings both dark and light. It’s your decision to work out where it fits.
A forthcoming small tour is planned. THE ANSWER LIES IN THE BLACK VOID will be performing live as a 5-piece, with Botond Fogl (guitar), Attila Kovacs (guitar) and Mark Potkovacz (drums) being part of the full line-up. It should be something special.