Relic by Forming the Void

Release date: March 17, 2017
Label: Argonauta Records

Heavy music is a hoary, hairy, lumbering beast. Ancient ideas are reheated, old riffs are revived and the mumbling bearded behemouth stumbles on through generation after generation, satisfying urges of ears who like rumbling basslines and thundering drums. But every now and then, a band approaches the ancient tropes as if they are the first to stumble upon them. They approach the task of thumping out slabs of guitar noise with wide-eyed enthusiasm; making the genre seem fresh and sparkling. It may be a studiously adhered-to riff, or a bellow with gusto which sets them apart; something which shows them to be caught up in the excitement of making loud noises.

Enter Forming the Void, whose latest album, their second, is shot through with this exuberance – and it makes it a joy to listen to. Let’s be frank: the band have not come up with anything brand-new. In fact their bio references such bands as Baroness and Mastodon and you can hear such influences peppered throughout the album. But what the band from Louisiana, USA, have done, through the injection of melody, their strict “realms of fantasy” approach to songwriting (no obvious political statements here) and sheer gusto, is make an album that soars.

This is nowhere more evident than in the opening three tracks, beginning with the understated, atmospheric introduction to ‘After Earth’, which opens into a majestic march before vocalist James Marshall gives notice of his impressive abilities. ‘Endless Road’ has an elastic quality to it, a groove that would make the dead nod their head, and a chorus with a hook that could snare a whale. But that is nothing compared to ‘Bialozar’, whose Mastodon-like riffery and frankly massive chorus will get into your head and refuse to leave. The trio of songs, all of which are unafraid to tread across the more catchy, even epic, areas of heavy music, are quite the opening.

But there are more gems in the eight-track album, such as the title song with its slow stomp, or ‘Witches’, which has a gorgeous melody and a stadium-friendly arrangement. ‘Unto the Smoke’ ups the atmosphere ante somewhat, with its grumbling bass and sparse guitar and it leads into the final track, which backs up all I said before about the band making something new out of the grizzled beast that is heavy music. It is a cover of the Led Zeppelin classic ‘Kashmir’ – a brave one to do, given the instant recognition of John Bonham’s much-imitated drum intro.

Forming the Void do something different, though. The let the listener in with a woozy psychedelic beginning, before giving us a pared-back version of the song, which is recognisable as the original, but avoids slavishly copying it. And they transform it into a 10-minute trip.

It is as if they are trying to serve it up as a brand new piece of music. And they are successful – which is very welcome indeed.

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