Tuesday 29 August 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Forming The Void - "Relic"

By: David Jupp

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 17/03/2017
Label: Argonauta Records (CD) |
Lonestar Records (LP)

In a genre creaking under the weight of its own familiarity Forming the Void have built something exceptional that stands apart. ‘Relic’ is a record that will long outlast its creators and live on, forming the foundations, of future sludge-monuments.

“Relic” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1.After Earth
2.The Endless Road
5.The Witch
7.Unto the Smoke

The Review:

There must be a point during the writing process for a record, when a band realise they have stumbled across something special. Whether mid jam at rehearsal or in the isolation of a low-lit lounge, when these threads of brilliance choose to offer themselves a bands collective heart must surely quicken. It is then just the small matter of following each thread home to its cohesive whole. Taken in its entirety, Louisiana four-piece Forming the Void’s second album ‘Relic’ evokes a wealth of these ‘imagine being there when they wrote that’ moments.

The seven songs and one cover that make up album number two form a tapestry of contemporary influences that include Baroness, Tool and Soundgarden. But oddly, ‘Relic’ still seems an apt name. A relic is defined as an object that survives from an earlier time, and Forming the Void’s sophomore effort is certainly imbibed with an ancient and timeless quality. This is especially notable in its slower more atmospheric interludes, but there is also an ever-present driving yell to its heavier passages that conjures images of tribal charge.

The record opens with ‘After Earth’ and immediately implements the aforementioned approach. Setting forth with a shamanic and droned exchange between galloped toms and minimal guitar-flutter, this summoning soon bears blackened fruit as a huge wave of sludge crashes in on your already craned audio-neck. Similarly, to Vokonis’ recent standout ‘The Sunken Djinn’ this mass of tone requires an impressive vocal and James Marshall’s layered war-yell doesn’t disappoint. In fact, the heft of the vocals on ‘Relic’ consistently add girth to the records overall spine. The lyrics evoke equally epic themes with Marshall calling across the years. ‘Roam, beside the dead. Time unwinding.

A large swathe of ‘Relic’ draws on paths well-trodden but each time a dejected sigh might flicker in your throat the band find an extra few percent, be it through delivery or craft. Track two Endless Road extracts this differentiation via Marshall’s vocal. The riffs are solid but the combination of Luke Baker’s undertow bass and Marshall’s bellow transform the ordinary into the special.

Next up trudging Miami stalwarts Torche rear their heads. ‘Bialozar’ wouldn’t be out of place on ‘Neanderthal’ with its fusion of vocal harmony and Thomas Colley’s skull-fuck snare. Again though, instead of massaging another band’s sound Forming the Void take a potion to the vein and inject something extra. This time round, the lyrics that supplement the battle cry provide the albums stand out moment. ‘Wings spread, over the mountain.’ I challenge any connoisseur of heavy music not to contort their face at this point. It’s just outrageously good.

Title track ‘Relic’ is up next and its initial two minutes offer the first whiff of a stall in momentum. Luckily just as the blueprint begins to feel a tad familiar the band cast war-paint all over it with a four-minute, Tool inspired grind.

‘The Witch’ follows and immediately picks up the pace with the Louisiana quartets admiration for Baroness raging into view. The song is a perfect example of the application of craft. There is nothing particularly new about the execution but somehow the charging whole erases all memory of its dull set of parts.

Track six ‘Plumes’ offers the records only real misfire. There is perhaps an element of taste at play here though. ‘Plumes’ would fit perfectly on Torche’s latest record ‘Restarter.’ For me that record missed the mark. There is something about a tempo that is neither slow enough for a half-time bang, or fast enough for horns that just doesn’t grab me.

Fortunately, penultimate offering ‘Unto the Smoke’ restores maximum worthy with an 8-minute testament to everything that makes melodic sludge so good. The driving crash and yell make a welcome return as do their symbiotic and shamanistic lulls.

‘Relic’s curtain falls in a slightly bizarre manner. By covering one of Led Zeppelin’s most iconic songs I can’t help but feel that Forming the Void succeed in breaking a spell they’ve toiled so hard to conjure. It’s a decent cover but it just feels out of place on a record with such a pronounced identity and narrative. It plays like a well-executed after-thought that is perhaps better left for the live stage.

Ill-judged covers aside, with ‘Relic’ Forming the Void have taken a familiar set of materials and carved something fresh. One of the beautiful things about music is that it’s timeless, it’s forever. In a genre creaking under the weight of its own familiarity Forming the Void have built something exceptional that stands apart. ‘Relic’ is a record that will long outlast its creators and live on, forming the foundations, of future sludge-monuments.

“Relic” is available here

Band info: Facebook || Bandcamp