What happens every time you try to introduce someone to metal? No matter if you’re playing your favorite record, the craziest thing you’d heard recently, or something a bit more introductory, you’ll inevitably give it to someone who has the same common complaint. “OH, I CAN’T TAKE IT, THERE’S JUST SO MUCH NOISE.” To be fair, you probably hated that person to begin with and gave them that record so they would leave you alone about it. You knew they would hate the clashing sounds because you love them. Since you’re that person, you need to get down with Voidthrone.
Kur is the second album from the Seattle five-piece blackened death band. It would be hard to portray the band as anything other than their own description: “Voidthrone is an unconventional, dissonant blackened death metal band forged in Seattle.” Nearly every single word of that sentence is necessary to understanding the band.
We can start with unconventional. It would be difficult to find a comparable sound to Voidthrone anywhere in metal. This band does things technically that few other bands can. Every member has unique talents that allow them to pull off the kind of musicianship needed for their songs. These songs contain both the traditional and the original. Any song can turn on a dime without warning. Slow, plodding beats with simple riffs and harmonies can easily jump into blast beats with tremolo picking. They keep you guessing which makes this record that much more interesting: you never really know where the next line is going.
Dissonant doesn’t even begin to encapsulate everything Voidthrone can do. This band defines organized chaos. Every song is littered with sections of extra noise and clashing melodies. Despite the cacophony, there is form and focus to what they do. The noise isn’t just there because they could throw it in. It all contributes to the songs. A lot of it feels sort of like jazz improvisation. Just little flecks in each song to contribute to the overall feel.
Special shoutout to vocalist Zhenya Frolov’s work in “Phantasm Epoch.” If you need one reason to listen to this record, it’s Frolov’s shout of “BLEGH” at 3:11 in the song. You just can’t beat it.
Finally, this is most blackened death metal that’s ever blackened the death. It’s got everything you need: tremolo picking, crazy blast beats, and tempos and rhythms that will melt your face off. It’s very reminiscent of Thantifaxath and their particularly avant garde black metal. This is a blistering collection of tracks that will assault your ears in a very pleasant way if that’s your thing. The oil painting album cover is the perfect metaphor: a growing fire that consumes everything entirely.
The title track is the perfect example. “Kur” begins with the cacophony of a rusty train starting a long journey leading into the abrupt syncopated toms from drummer Joshua Keifer. Then the chaos really sets in. Frolov’s scratchy scream comes in over the racket of dissonant guitars. The drums never quit even when the song enters the bridge of guitars picking at sour notes from chords. The entire song is an experiment in discord. The guitars play with pinch harmonics, pick scrapes, dissonant dual guitar harmonies, and pretty much any other technique that causes noise instead of notes. The drums behind it are playing a number of variations on the barrage of snares, toms, bass, and cymbals he can come up with. It’s truly impressive how the song even holds together.
Considering all that this band can do in one track, the fact that this band can keep it together for a track is a feat. This is a record made up of very disparate parts. Their band is based on the idea. Their sound is defined by putting things together that shouldn’t be. But it just works so well. It’s a dense record that grows on you the more you listen to it. And it certainly takes multiple listens to come to an understanding of it. But once you can break the barrier, it is so rewarding.
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Kur is available for purchase through the band’s Bandcamp page, and is now streaming on major services.