He awoke to a palette of stars. Each light a pinprick dully illuminating a tranquil sea of inky black. He was floating, immobile, pain shooting rhythmically through his lower back. The screen on his visor flashed in and out erratically, readings critical. Through his bleary periphery he could see the broken and hollowed vestiges of his vessel slowly drifting beyond his sight, pieces scattering. He closed his eyes, attempting to locate the memory in his clouded mind. Routine external check. A small flash. Nothing. Darkness. He attempted to move his arms, legs, fingers and toes. Searing pain enveloped him. Something broken, fractured perhaps. Tears of agony coursed down his cheeks, his situation becoming more readily apparent with each passing second. He would die here, in the beautiful dark.
It is a difficult thing to describe the feeling of a presence. The entrance of someone or something into a space you occupy. That brief sense of violation. He felt this through his entire being as the stars before him were slowly blotted out. He could feel it before he saw it. It ascended from the bottom of his visor, rising slowly until all was consumed by its mass. It was a vessel, but no light emanated from its exterior. Its shape was barely discernable, and seemed to alter itself in his mind each time he attempted to fully grasp its magnitude. It approached with no sound but the pounding of his own heart in his ears and temples. It was a dark greater than dark, the deepest black he had ever imagined. He knew, in that moment, that he wanted to die before it reached him. Screen blinking in and out, reading him his swiftly deteriorating vitals, he prayed they would break down faster. That his body would collapse into painless death before the dark mass completed its approach. Tendrils, like the appendages of an octopus, writhed their way around his arms and legs. The pain was unbearable, excruciating. He tried to scream, but there came neither air nor sound. His vision began to blur, unconsciousness overtaking him as he was borne broken into the heart of absence.
Sometimes I listen to albums and mini-movies play in my head. Narratives that to me encapsulate the sound, the feeling, of the music I am listening to. Spectral Voice has been doing this to me for years, with demo after demo of evocative, strangling death-doom that conjures images and stories that transcend the boundaries of my typically limited imagination. Their debut full-length album, Eroded Corridors of Unbeing, is no exception. In fact, it is the apex of everything the band have thus far released. It is cavernous, ethereal, terrifying, expertly performed, compositionally sound, and an utter masterpiece of death-doom glory. This is music that soundtracks nightmares of spiteful aliens, burning space stations, decaying planets, and the coming of the end of all things. It is music constructed for the dark. Prepare yourself accordingly.
Comparisons abound when discussing Spectral Voice. Death-doom masters diSEMBOWELMENT and Inverloch should certainly be invoked, as well as Blood Incantation (whose members make up the majority of the band), Incantation, Timeghoul, and Father Befouled. The music on this record falls squarely into the doomy caverncore camp, with production values that highlight the raw, jagged nastiness of each composition, and expel the vocals from the pit of a cave on a lost moon. One could even pick up some Darkspace vibes regarding the use of space and atmosphere as tools of menace and destruction, rather than calm. If any of the above bands suit your fancy, you’ll find a lot to love here. But Spectral Voice are much more than the sum of their influences. Bringing their own signature ethereal and spacey songwriting to the mix, this is an incredibly dense and intense record from start to finish, leaving little breathing room even in its quieter moments.
Each of the above influences and elements rear their decrepit heads in the opening moments of “Thresholds Beyond”. A static wave quietly winds its way through our ears before off-kilter, haunting guitar notes break this brief ambient trance. Then the drums, feeling a million miles away, enter the fray and soon each instrument congeals into a writhing mess of death-doom putridity. I mean this in the best way possible, of course. Such descriptors have always served as the highest compliments for this strain of the death and doom metal trees, and Spectral Voice bring the ugliness and general murk in spades. If you aren’t sold on the band’s sound at the end of the first track, this album isn’t for you. These guys know what they want to accomplish and do so with uncompromising vision and brilliant execution.
The fantastic performances on this record are nowhere more obvious than in the album’s second track, “Visions of Psychic Dismemberment”, which presents nearly fourteen minutes of non-stop guitar-driven madness, vacillating between slimy doom metal riffs and propulsive, maniacal death metal blasts. Throughout the record, the band balances the two subgenres they inhabit impeccably well, which tends to be a problematic aspect of a lot of death-doom in general. Rather than feeling like this is a death metal AND doom metal record, with both styles warring for dominance, Eroded Corridors of Unbeing is most assuredly a brilliant mix of each, blending the unique sonic blueprints of these subgenres into a seamless whole. This is achieved primarily through the restrained and truly masterful performances by these musicians. The performances here display a truly commendable level of control, allowing these songs time to either suffocate through their oppressive heaviness or beat you senseless with their bludgeoning speed at just the right moments. The record on the whole is fantastically written, and very rarely feels stagnant or dull. Quite the opposite, actually. Thanks to deeply murky yet uncannily clear production work, these songs become a seething, broiling stew of interdimensional dread without losing their instrumental clarity. The remainder of the album skimps on none of these elements. From the ominous, memorable guitar licks and manic drum work of “Lurking Gloom” to the absolutely brutalizing Incantationcore of finale “Dissolution”, the album is a uniformly fantastic journey into the darkest realms of death and doom metal.
There are few albums that have grabbed and shook me so violently this year. With Eroded Corridors of Unbeing, Spectral Voice have taken every element that made their prior releases so special and amplified them into a world-destroying creation of truly impressive magnitude. This is one of the best metal releases of the year, and will certainly find its way onto many year-end lists. It’s rare that I find myself completely lost in a record, but Spectral Voice have brought me to that rarified space shaken and terrified. So grab your headphones, find a comfortable place beneath the stars, and let Eroded Corridors of Unbeing speak to you of the horrors of the cosmos. An utterly masterful debut.
Eroded Corridors of Unbeing is out October 13th through Dark Descent Records, and can be purchased through the band’s Bandcamp page.