Black Void – Antithesis


Lars ‘Lazare’ Nedland formed Black Void as the counterpart to his melodic hard rock band, White Void. You’ll already know him as a founder member of avant-garde black metal legends, Solefald, and as the pianist and co-vocalist of Borknagar. Now he wants to unite the worlds of punk and black metal in a nihilistic marriage that few dare to consummate. Nuclear Blast are on board, and you should be. Antithesis is the filthiest sonic terrorism Watain would love to concoct but would not dare to create for fear of excommunication from the black metal scene.

Black Void’s musical aims might sound simple, but album opener, ‘Void’, is more ambitious than your average prog metal song. The bewildering styles ooze cohesion through chaos, mixing the aggressive punk rock of the early 1980s Washington scene with the venomous metallic onslaught of Lord Belial. Nedland’s vocals are menacing in their devilish rasp, yet he switches to a melancholy head voice for the chorus as if co-writing a song for Katatonia’s next album. How does he extract so much pathos from such violent delight? You’ll ask the same question on ‘Death to Morality’ with Hoest from Taake joining him on the microphone. Both songs invite you to imagine what Brit rock legends, Therapy?, would sound like if they embraced black metal. (NB: Surely that would be worth a fundraising campaign?)

“Punk is not dead,” is a cliché you hear all the time from crusty acolytes in moth-eaten leather jackets. Normally, you assume the last modern record they heard was back in 1984, but they’d be keen to endorse the attitude and ethos of ‘Reject Everything’. This is like The Vandals injected with the DNA of Nedland’s former band mates in Carpathian Forest. The lyrical message is more serious. “What is a truth when there’s no standard for truths/ And we have nothing to base it on but what is subjective/ Nothing exists as a self-evident idea/ Objectivity’s illusory, there’s only perspective.” Here’s a reminder that Nietzsche invented moral relativism before it fell into the hands of the post-modernists seventy years later. But Black Void understand the original message – nothing is sacred; God is dead; chaos is the great leveller that denies you agency; every civilisation will fall into the abyss at some point.

The more you dig into Antithesis, the more you realise that the punk and black metal synergy is a convenient summary rather than a true description of the music. That’s because Nedland’s background is in experimental and extreme art that detests genre boundaries. ‘Tenebrism in Life’ could be from Paradise Lost’s triumphant 2015 album, The Plague Within, and even touches upon the gothic theatrics of Crematory before embracing a dramatic thrash metal incineration towards the end. You’d think they roped in a random shoegaze vocalist to provide the graceful backing harmonies for ‘No Right, No Wrong’. The credits suggest otherwise, but it’s a remarkable experiment that they repeat on ‘It’s Not Surgery, it’s a Knife Fight’, only this time they hiss at you through a hardcore punk sandstorm. The modulation to a blackened thrash assault will have you wiping the blood from your mouth like a person possessed by the gluttonous desire for flesh.

Black Void write music for the adrenaline of a crowd convinced of their invincibility and forgetful of the dreary routine that informs most of their life. Why else would they end the record with a paean to the hard rock posturing of classic Manowar? You think your destiny is to ride on a stage in a Harley Davidson, but the head-banging speed metal violence that follows will force you to abandon this ideal for a simpler intoxication of fist-pumping. A superb guest appearance from Rotting Christ’s Sakis Tolis adds a surprise change of colour to the chorus and allows Nedland to showcase his melodious range while his Greek counterpart growls like a hunger strike protestor subjected to the aroma of a steak supper.

You’ll be in your element if you believe black metal is a spirit rather than a rigid sound defined by rules. Those that abandoned punk years ago will also have reason to reconsider their choices after one listen to Antithesis. This is a record you cannot ignore.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 27/05/2022

Record Label: Nuclear Blast

Standout tracks: Void, Tenebrism of Life, Dadaist Disgust

Suggested Further Listening: Wolf Bastard – Hammer the Bastards (2022), Therapy? – High Anxiety (2003), Watain – The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain (2022)