Monday, 19 April 2021

White Void - Anti (2021)

Country: Norway
Style: Hard/Progressive Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 12 Mar 2021
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Here's an interesting sound. White Void are led by Lars Nedland, who often goes by Lazare when he's doing his day job, which is to play keyboards and sing for the Norwegian progressive black metal outfit Borknagar. He's also one of the two band members in post-black metal band Solefald, who are further into the avant-garde. White Void is a new project to allow him to explore some seventies and eighties influences that are well out of scope for those bands. And it's those influences that fascinate me.

It's easy to hear the late seventies and early eighties here, but quantifying it leads us to odd places. I ended up hearing early Pink Floyd, as covered by the Damned. There's definitely early goth here, with some of the post-punk that came along with it, but the songs are obviously rooted in progressive pop. This feel is there in There is No Freedom But the End and The Shovel and the Cross, but it's overt on a song called This Apocalypse is for You. It has the edgy attitude of post-punk but the melodies are right out of the Syd Barrett songbook.

What's really odd is how it merges simplicity with complexity, because the punkier aspects are simple riffs but the prog aspects are clearly a lot more layered, bringing in clever changes, dynamics and lots of texture from Nedland's keyboards. It's not just him, of course, as the rest of the band appreciate an odd approach like this. Tobias Solbakk has fun varying his drumming on All Chains Rust, All Men Die; I can't imagine he gets to do much of this for progressive black/death metal outfit In Vain, though I am eager to find out.

I wonder how this paradox will affect how the album will be received by audiences. I believe the more pure a prog fan sees themselves, the less they'll like this. They may see it as not proggy enough, with too much edge and not enough dynamic play, too close to post-punk and hard rock. At the other end of the sound, I wonder if goths, punks and post-punks will conversely see it as too proggy, because every time the band find a simple groove, they clutter it up with all sorts of clever musical shenanigans, the layers and the density of the music and the like.

It may be the fans in between those two extremes that appreciate this the most. The organ sound is a welcome seventies hard rock component to them and they may see this as a tasty combo of Hawkwind and Boston. I caught the Hawkwind early, especially through the hypnotic nature of Nedland's vocals and the effects layered on to them. The Boston grew as the album went on and made itself obvious at the end, with the closing track, The Air Was Thick with Smoke. I like this one a lot, even if the keyboard work starts out way too obvious. It's the most overtly seventies song here in an album full of them.

It may well be the best of them too. I liked this from the outset but it was that final song that had me wanting to start the album again, at which point I wondered how I hadn't heard Boston from the very beginning in Do. Not. Sleep. It's suddenly obvious, even alongside those other sounds. It takes a bit of a back seat during the more goth and post-punk songs in the first half, especially Where You Go, You'll Bring Nothing, but it never really goes away.

And I do find it fascinating that so many musicians in the extreme metal bands of Scandinavia seem to have such a thing for seventies American hard/prog rock. It's not a bad thing, but it means that I'm really liking side projects and direction changes nowadays and that does feel odd. But good.

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