One of the saddest parts about Akercocke going on hiatus all those years ago was the fact that after Words That Go Unspoken… and Antichrist (Earache) there was a tangible feeling that they were on course to release something truly ground-breaking. Whilst their recent release Renaissance in Extremis (Peaceville) was very welcome indeed, I couldn’t help but feel that the return to an earlier sound left that potential untapped.
During that hiatus several acts popped up, the most promising by a country mile being Voices. Made up largely of Akercocke members David Gray, Sam Loynes, and Peter Benjamin, with mastermind Dan Abela on bass. Their second album London (Candlelight) was an absolute masterpiece, the sound of a band really coming into their own, not only concerned with musical extremity, the album at times could easily pass as psychological warfare with blast beats, capable of leaving the listener feeling shaken and haunted after listening.
With that in mind, Voices album three, Frightened (Candlelight/Spinefarm), was always going to be one of my most eagerly awaited albums of any year. Frightened? Yes, and it’s a testament to the quality preceding it that preparing to listen an album can instill such palpable anticipation.
Whatever I was expecting from Frightened, however, I wasn’t expecting this” Frightened is an almost Host (EMI) like change of pace for the band, and potentially could be as divisive as Paradise Lost’s curveball was.
This album is stunning.
The songwriting on display is “next level” stuff, containing many metallic and extreme elements, but fluidly intertwined with melody and catchy hooks: post-Metal you can dance to.
From the opening track ‘Unknown’ it just stands out, an almost perfect fusion of harrowing extreme elements; dark gothic clean vocals and some incredible songwriting. ‘Rabbit’s Curse’ is much more like London’s material, an epic cinematic feel to it, occasionally Hammer Horror theatrics, but avoiding the skin stripping abrasiveness of the previous release.
So far so good, but with third track ‘Evaporated’ the album picks up where antichrist left off: with shades of Joy Division and Bauhaus thrown into the post-Rock mix for good measure. ‘IWSYA’ is an utterly beautiful track: string sections, equal parts romance, and very effective harsh vocals used to convey utter despair.
‘Dead Feelings’ continue this potent weaving of styles. Rather than just having different styles butted together, Voices have successfully blended the elements of their sound into something new, fresh and utterly vital.
This is compounded further when ‘Manipulator’ starts. It’s a safe bet that at no point of wildly anticipating this album was I expecting choruses I could sing along to, let alone one that I would be singing along to with gusto in the car a month after first hearing it.
‘Funeral Day’ sees some heavier riffs creeping back in, yet still and some utterly sublime 80’s style drumming from David Gray. At this point, on every listen through, I’m sat with a huge smile on my face.
The classical fingerpicking guitar on the stripped-down ‘Fascinator’ is mesmerising, very basic and yet maintaining the lush production of the album. ‘Sequences’ has a foot tapping, head nodding urgency about its potent Gothic Rock.
‘Home Movies’ sees the band creating yet more earworms with ‘and the streets are paved with shame’ managing to successfully take the ominous tones of London and make it sound almost hopeful, shifting gears smoothly between genre and tone masterfully, taking listeners from hope to despair and paranoia in a heartbeat.
The lush tones and beauty of the album is no better represented than on album closer ‘Footsteps’, which is simply majestic, soaring vocals and orchestra pieces in sublime post-Rock glory, capable of moving you to tears, and after the journey taken so far leaves the listener with a palpable feeling of release and redemption.
Simply put it is easily one of the best and most satisfying albums I’ve ever heard, and even after what’s embarrassingly close to 100 listens now, it still unerringly hits the mark.
Not even remotely the album I was expecting after London, but the album I was expecting after Antichrist.