When I write reviews, I’m trying to achieve a few personal goals. First, I like writing reviews for bands I like and/or respect. Second, I want to help smaller bands reach a wider audience. Third, I’m always secretly hoping I found the next big thing. I just want the satisfaction of saying something like, “Yeah, man…I was THERE.” There’s a great Patton Oswalt joke about when he had a kid and gave up drugs. He said one day he’d start doing them again and then make up stories about bands he never saw. “I saw Radiohead in a basement with like six other people, man.” I desperately want to be that guy! Except my stories are true!
Thus, I introduce Void of Sleep. The Italian five-piece progressive sludge band has been together since 2010. At first, their sound was more sludgy stoner metal. There were certainly moments of progressive songwriting in 2012’s Tales Between Reality and Madness, but it was primarily stoner and sludge. A great combo, obviously, but not an uncommon one. With 2015’s New World Order, the band infused equal parts psychedelia and shoegaze to create this atmospheric post-metal sound on top of their stoner sludge riffs. This combination results in one of the more unique bands I’ve listened to in quite some time.
This year, they really outdid themselves. Metaphora is truly a work of art. It takes their sound to a completely new level. The songwriting on this record is so cohesive that it feels like a singular work of music instead of a collection of songs. There is a thread that travels across all of the tracks that’s hard to describe other than feeling. You just hear it and sense it. Each song has its place on the list to achieve that flow few records have.
Without going through each song in painstaking detail, I’ll just say that there are excellent moments of emotional building and release. The melodic acoustic guitar drama of “The Famine Years” builds you up into the groovy progressive sludge driver “Iron Mouth.” It’s equal parts fun-ass riffs and metal catharsis, and it’s so incredibly well written that the 11 minutes seriously fly by. Rinse and repeat with the synth solo “Waves of Discomfort” into the goth metal banger “Unfair Judgements.” The shifts remind me of the Pixies and their “loud-quiet” dynamism. There’s something to the process of build and release that becomes very compelling. To me, Metaphora is the most gripping record of 2020.
Once I had spun the record a few times and listened to Void of Sleep’s back catalog, it dawned on me: Void of Sleep is a perfect example of artistic growth. What started as a very good but derivative stoner metal band evolved into a group of metal artists. They fit into a personal favorite category; a band you can only describe as their name. Sure, you could describe their sound as “atmospheric progressive shoegaze stoner sludge” but it’s not exactly pithy. But that’s exactly what you want. There’s a certain mystery in just saying a name. That mystery is only the beginning of Metaphora’s seduction.
If I haven’t convinced you by now, you weren’t going to listen to Metaphora in the first place. While I think that is a truly massive error on your part, I respect your right to do it. However, you would be missing out on one of the most interesting records of the year. I find Metaphora to be intensely intriguing. Each track has so much to consume. It’s a feast for the ears in all ways. Stop reading, grab your best headphones, and press play.
Metaphora is out now via Aural Music, and is available for purchase on Bandcamp.