Craft: Void

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Craft: Void
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Craft: Void
Black Metal
Carnal Records, Southern Lord Records
August 5th, 2011 / September 17th, 2011
Release length: 49:53
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Craft has been around for quite some time. This Swedish Black Metal group had actually formed way back in 1994 under the name Nocta and had recorded some demos that never saw release. Eventually the group’s name changed to Craft and their first demo was officially released in 1999 titled Total Eclipse. Since then the band has received a good deal of praise for their full-lengths, as well as brings their fans and general loyal listeners to the Black Metal crowd their fourth full-length recording, Void. The album was released overseas back in August of 2011 through Carnal Records with Southern Lord Records picking it up for North American territories roughly a month and a half later. While feeling a little out of place given the heavier southern vibe of the label’s Sludge and Hardcore geared roster, this effort does fit the blacker mold of the label well. But, despite the label putting this release out and it’s lineage, the question becomes whether Void is a solid offering to the style, or if it shows signs of a prominant band starting to slip.

Void starts off feeling somewhat cold thanks to the instrumental introduction “Intro (John’s Nightmare),” though it doesn’t really establish what the fading in noise that sounds like wind whipping by the microphone, but coming off a bit more mechanical then a natural sound. Either way, it feels a little unsetteling thanks to the rawer traits of the audio as “Serpent Soul” kicks in. While the track does feel a bit evil, the energetic start doesn’t quite feel there, and that’s largely due to the lower, rawer audio quality of the release. The guitar’s to Void have that slight sharpness to it that is often found in the style, but with the louder bass presence, it ends up taking on a more heavier feel instead, which works well for the desolate atmospheres these tracks often give off. The drums on this release are credited to Dirge Rep, however some digging around the internet finds a band statement that claims “The drums on Void are programmed,” due to issues that came up “during production.” While a drum machine on an underground Black Metal album is nothing new, the drums found here sound great and even come across like a real drummer is performing, so whether these are programmed or the work of the aforementioned session member doesn’t really matter when experiencing the album as a whole. The bass kicks here sound really deep with a thick thud to them with a lighter, tighter loudness to the snares and some crisp cymbols that match the volume of the rest of the kit. Of course, the vocals here are the traditional rhaspy performance found with many earlier second generation Black Metal acts, and it fits perfectly. All of this works well, but leads to a missed opportunity with the start of “Serpent Soul,” though the rest of the track does a good job at holding that sinister ambience with some more complex guitar work and nice shifts between atmospheres and changes to the song’s pace.

Despite that lack of energy to the start of the release, much of Void is simply heavy. “Crome Resonance of Doom” establishes the potential the band has to create somewhat epic sounding tracks with a strong heaviness that will leave you dead in your tracks with astonishment. The song continues to build as it goes along it’s slower pace, allowing it to become faster at times, but mostly pick up in the intensity and heaviness throughout. The only gripe here is the decision to tackle the closing, which seems sort of like it would be a guitar solo without it actually being one, but without a bass presence behind it, allowing that section of the track to feel a little empty. It doesn’t really happen outside this one time luckily, and while the hollowness does exist there, it still feels like a suitable closing that you won’t quite enjoy as much until you realize that’s what it’s meant to be after that first time through. Of course, this is a slower track that feeds off the intensity and darker atmosphere of the raw production, and it really just sets up a completely different musical experience all together.

Much of the album seems to follow closer to the more traditional Black Metal concepts laid out in “Serpent Soul” without really going into the more epic sounds, such as “Succumb to Sin” which actually finds a more ritualistic sense to the music throughout the track, allowing the music to put the listener into a dark trance with crushing bass lines supporting a strong, somewhat crushing guitar performance that really adds to that trance-enducing sound thanks to the simpler chords with some stand out leads being performed. All of which could easily be said about the following track “Leaving the Corporal Shade,” though it doesn’t feel as heavy in comparison, but largely focused on a more dismal atmosphere which works to seperate the two and give a little more substance to the release without filling it full of similar sounding ritualistic tracks.

The only two songs that don’t really work out too well on this album come towards the end. “I Want to Commit Murder” feels a lot simpler in comparison to the rest of the album, and it just feels really repetitive without much of an atmosphere to it. The main emphasis of the song obviously ends up being the title of the song shouted over and over throughout with some additional lyrics that feel tacked on. “Bring on the Clouds” does try to capture that ritualistic sound, which “I Want to Commit Murder” seems to have lost, but in the end it ends up being a rather uninteresting song despite the additional atmosphere, and generally just feels a little unenthusiastic in performance by the band as well. All culminating to a stronger atmospheric closing track, the title song “Void.” The song’s longer length is partly due to the instrumental bit at the start that gives off that similar sort of vibe and sound that “Intro (John’s Nightmare)” give off, but it leads in nicely to a slower, more depressing ritual-based song that holds the listener’s attention despite lack of a variety to the song, really focusing on solid music and having a strong heaviness to the track to end the release nicely.

Despite some less-than-spectacular songs and two missed opportunities at the start of the album, Void makes for a fantastic old-school Black Metal romp through the early second wave approach. The music’s rawer sound gives the music a little extra atmosphere against thick, heavy riffs and important bass presence with a drum performance that sounds great, as well as human though it may not be. If you’re a fan of Black Metal, Craft is a band to take notice of, and always has been. Void proves that this band knows what it takes to make a solid offering in this style, and make it work. Between the atmospheric qualities and some rather epic moments, this is an album fans of Black Metal really need to check out the next chance they get.

01. Intro (John’s Nightmare) – 0:20
02. Serpent Soul – 4:40
03. Come Resonance of Doom – 6:36
04. The Ground Surrenders – 5:59
05. Succumb to Sin – 4:43
06. Leaving the Corporal Shade – 7:13
07. I Want to Commit Murder – 5:17
08. Bring on the Clouds – 6:27
09. Void – 8:39

Overall Score: 8/10
Craft (band)
Craft (logo)Digital review copy of this release provided by Southern Lord Records via Earsplit PR.