Written by Kirk
Voidhaven – Lithic
> Released June 9
> Ardua Music
I don’t know if it’s pedantic or redundant to say this, but I’m always impressed by the level of precision of the music that comes out of Germany. Even in the world of heavy music, which can often sound very “rough” or “harsh” to the average listener, there is always this sense of cleanliness to it. Perfection. Superiority. And while this kind of accolade may sound grandiose and a little superfluous, when’s the last time you’ve listened to a German band and thought, “Man, these guys sound like, shit!”? …It’s okay, take your time. I’ll wait….
Chances are you haven’t, which is fine, because, if you like death/doom, I would like to introduce you to Voidhaven. Hailing from Hamburg, they play a gothic style of death/doom that is reminiscent of such luminaries as My Dying Bride, Novembers Doom, and Paradise Lost while also harnessing that razor-sharp precision of fellow German bands such as Ahab and Mirror of Deception. After forming in 2016, they released their debut self-titled EP in October of 2018. Unfortunately, a change of drummers in 2020 followed shortly thereafter by a global pandemic caused a massive blow to their momentum, but their debut album Lithic is finally here, and it is truly a wonder to behold.
Now, don’t feel bad if you missed out on that debut EP (I didn’t even know about it until I started doing my homework). It’s a solid piece of death/doom, but Lithic is another beast entirely. And the time between releases gave Voidhaven all the time they needed to not only gel together as a band but to also polish these songs to the point where they shine. And shine they do indeed. Guitarists Simon Schorneck and Philipp Kruppa have a working relationship dating back to 2015 when they founded the epic doom metal band Fvneral Fvkk. Sharing vocal duties is Simon on lead vocals and Jakob Gozdzielewski on backing vocals as well as bass guitar, and they worked together from 2013 through 2017 during their time in gothic doom metal band Crimson Swan. Simon has also worked with keyboardist Marcos Lege in Crimson Swan as well as the gothic metal band Embercrow. The only newcomer to this collective of musicians is drummer Norman Müller of funeral death/doom band Remembrance and formerly of progressive death metal band Scythe. So what we have here is a collective of well-seasoned musicians with a rich history of brotherhood amongst themselves.
From the very first note of opening track “Resting on Tombs” you can tell you’re in for a real treat. Simon’s growls rumble deep within his throat like a volcano threatening to erupt at any moment, a mere breath away from raining burning death upon all around him. His guitar work is in contrast with Philipp’s, one soaring up towards the heavens like Icarus in flight and the other crashing upon the shore like waves upon the beach during a thunderstorm. The piano break at about 4:27 gives a brief but much-needed respite before the storm returns at about 5:24, destroying the beach and your eardrums alike. The piano opening “Sermon of Scorn” injects heavy dose of gothic melancholy to the album, Jakob’s contributions ebbing and flowing like the tide. Somehow—and don’t ask me how—the band manages to slow things down even more for “To Walk Among Ghosts,” perhaps the hardest song yet. Norman’s drumming has been absolutely on point thus far, paying attention not only to the notes that need to be played but also the ones that don’t, but his blast beats here are just brutal. If I had to pick a favorite song on this album, I think this one is it.
The tempo picks back up a little bit with “The Everblazing Picture”, but not much. A little more death than doom, this song is among the album’s most brutal. Jakob’s keys create a sense of peace and respite about halfway through the song, but it is short-lived as the riff once again comes home to roost, destroying just about everything in its path. And then the mood spirals downward once again as Jakob’s melancholy piano opens “The Desolate Throne”, another piece of epic gothic death/doom. His fingerprints are all over this album, which is a little surprising because his handiwork was barely noticeable on the debut EP. But these songs are lush and vibrant, a testament to his talent. And closing the album is “Something Cruel Within”, a heavy-hitting death/doom track with enough force and power to make your eardrums bleed. At 11:02, it is both the longest song on the album as well as the heaviest, making it the perfect way to close an already outstanding record.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Wow. I realize that we as the metal community can often shrug off and ignore doom metal because it’s really hard to headbang to riffs that have the average speed of honey drizzled onto toast in the midst of winter, but to say a slow riff can’t hit as hard as or harder than a death metal riff at full speed is pure folly. Doom metal is heaviness incarnate, and Voidhaven—in spite of their lack of output so far—prove this to be true with every single note of Lithic. Yeah, sure, riffs are great, but what Voidhaven create that is even more important is atmosphere. This album has the power to suck you in and make you feel like you’re a part of the music. You don’t just listen to Lithic, you experience it. It seeps into your skin and takes a hold of your spirit. And that’s what good music should do—change you down to your very core. The only question I have is this: what’s next?