02 The Soulless City
03 People Of The Monolith
04 Marble Steps
06 The Serpent’s Lullaby Part II
08 The Serpent’s Lullaby Part III
09 Forever In Fire
11 The Descent
13 The Black Goat
VoidWork is a Belgium-based project initiated by Xavier in 2008. According to the artist it draws its inspiration from 20th century horror literature and horror films, as well as more abstract concepts such as death, desolation, and fear. Apart from Xavier and Lesley, the project’s current stable members, a number of known artists have participated in the vocals, like Ann-Mari Thim (Arcana, Veil of Blue, Seventh Harmonic), Melissa Ferlaak (Echoterra, ex-Visions of Atlantis) and Zuberoa Aznarez (Diabulus in Musica). Ann-Mari Thim’s vocals offer a distinct neoclassical flavour to some of the tracks in this album. VoidWork have presented three more releases, “Asylum” (2009, Essentia Mundi), “Dark Corners” (2010, digital release on Bandcamp) and “Basement/Kaos ” (2011, Rage In Eden). Xavier is also involved in two other projects, the Doom metal Akem Manah and Nihil a dark, atmospheric project maintaining the gloomy, imaginative setting of VoidWork but verging more decisively towards the neoclassical side of things. “Horror/Forsaken” comes in a 4-panel digipak and is divided in two conceptual parts.
The first part is comprised of an assortment of components, ranging from horror, organic and sometimes even black ambient to neoclassical, heavenly voices, voice samples, drones and indefinable sound sources. A vivid impression is caused by the steep interchange between sound-laden, diverse surroundings and a certain minimalism in the composition, masterfully employed to create the frozen, haunted environments that dominate in “Horror”. The relatively abstract nature of the concept also works perfectly in this case, as it is fairly suggestive without being restrictive. Female screams, Christmas carols haunting the background, voice samples from classic horror films, operatic vocals, ghostly whispers, nursery rhyme melodies and gloomy, obstinate piano sequences pierce the veil of illusion to strike through with a shrieking sense of agony. As opposed to the normally soothing tones of the piano, the melodies it traces here are worrying and preoccupied, heightening the sense of suspense and terror in a gradual manner, much like the scores of old Hollywood movies. The combination of sounds evokes an atmosphere of mid-war Europe, the idea of a stranger walking through the ruins, examining the dusty, decayed remnants of lives destroyed, and people long gone into oblivion. Their ghosts however linger on, the fragments of their scattered existence echoing faintly, trapped in a loop the origin of which remains unclear.
The ambience is not as aggressive as it is hesitant, lingering and chaotic. The instability of unsure emotions, supernatural urges and unspeakable commands, rendering the ghosts unable to move forward and confining them in the damnation of a recurring, purposeless presence. Carrying on as shadows of their former selves, drenching the surroundings with a heavy, stifling melancholy. In tracks such as “Interlude” and “Insomnia” which are of a basically organic nature, unrecognisable sounds in the background suggest obscure activities. In “Haunted”, “Marble Steps” and “The Serpent’s Lullaby” the minimalistic neoclassical melodies mainly based on chilling piano sequences create an atmosphere of grim anticipation. Intense ritualistic elements can be found in in some of the tracks of the first CD, blended seamlessly with organic/dark ambient parts. In “The Soulless City” for instance we have oriental chants and rhythmic, ritual drumming. This concept assumes its darkest form in “The Black Goat”, a merciless, demonic ritual where chanting is mixed with church organ, and a mass of indistinguishable sounds escalate to a terrifying climax. “Forever In Fire” is one of the tracks where Ann-Mari lends her wonderful, high-pitched operatic vocals, and where a truly exotic result is achieved by the admixture of a melody resembling traditional Chinese music, female operatic vocals and male religious chants.
“Forsaken” on the other hand has a more composite, melodic feel to it, and the ritualistic, oriental aspect is more evident, in tracks such as “Akhenaton”, “Circle” and “Grave” – a track as bleak and blood-curdling as the blackest of black ambient. Think Profane Grace, Equimanthorn and further downwards into the abyss. “Nightmare” with its frozen synths, moving whispers and menacing, unnerving air could have easily been the soundtrack of a silent, obscure vampire flick. Only ten times more frightening than the ones you’ve already watched. The second CD is thick with the kind of darkness breeding in dim, humid basements where fearsome creatures lurk. It is less experimental in terms of the variety of genres it includes, and much more aggressive than the first one. If “Horror” is the first layer of profanity, “Forsaken” is the communion of the black blood of the inverted Christ. The irrevocably poisonous, asphyxiating atmosphere is dominant from the first to the last track. “Pillars”, one of the most eerie tracks in the whole recording, constitutes of a persistent piano sequence traversed by drones and different types of static. If you are anything like me and you enjoy a good scare now and then, try playing this track in the middle of the night with all the lights out!
It is impossible, as well as needless, to try to label the sound of VoidWork within a particular genre, as their most striking accomplishment is the fact that they combine a multitude of heterogeneous tendencies into one occasionally minimalistic, but always well-calculated ensemble. Economy of sound is obviously important to this album, as well as a fragmented, innovative use of the concept of melody. The melodies are thrown into the middle of the compositions, left suddenly unfinished and then resumed in unexpected points. They revolve around themselves in loops, like little creepy things cautiously sneaking on you while you are asleep. The outcome is a rich, colourful canvas where you can easily immerse yourself, complementing the given context with whatever it is you wish to add to it. This convergence of different elements, along with the originality of the compositions, is VoidWork’s strongest asset. There is literally nothing you cannot include in it, taking as a given the very broad scope of the overall horror genre. Fascinatingly rich and bristling with diversity and refreshing originality, “Horror/Forsaken” is definitely an experience to delve into if you are accustomed to exploring the dark side of music.