All Hail The Void
Southern Lord Records
Do not let the cover art for the new Enabler album fool you. All Hail The Void has art that would easily be explained as drawn by an enraged teenager sitting in his room after a big fight with mom and dad. It’s a weirdly juvenile depiction of melting zombie figures heading towards a dark void. The kind of thing you’d see on the back of any high school notebook from any metal head teen in any high school in America. It might lead you to believe that Enabler are a kids band, a muddled collection of nu metal riffs and awful growling. You’d be wrong. Way, way wrong.
All Hail The Voidnow stands tall in the rig of my over-the-top battle royal for album of the year. You say you like Entombed? You say you dig Slayer? You have come out with some love for post-hardcore and a dash of punk rock? Then pull up a chair son and give All Hail The Void a listen. Enabler takes their influences and blends them together into something that is heavy and entertaining but never ventures into a poppy metal arena. Alice Cooper once said about new metal: “Yeah I get it, you’re angry. Where’s the song?”. Enabler answer that question by crafting actual songs out of their despondent rage.
I’ll get to the rest of the album in a minute, but I have to address the tune “Speechless” first. This is hands down the best riff I’ve heard out of a new band in a long time. I defy anybody to hear this and not start banging their heads until it rips off their neck. When I saw them live this tune whipped the crowd into an absolute lather. The main riff is this Megadeth inspired solo-via-crunch experiment that bleeds into the chug-chug march riff and then flows back out again. The song is an absolute masterpiece from beginning to end. If you don’t hear the genius in “Speechless” then you’re trying to hard to be cool metal guy.
As seems to be the trend these days, All Hail The Void opens with a sad acoustic guitar before exploding into the first song, “F.A.T.H.” This is not the best choice for an opening track as it’s kind of paint-by-numbers thrash riff. Don’t let it stop you from pressing on because “The Heathens” is where Enabler open their shit up and start hacking your limbs off with a heavy metal hacksaw. “The Heathens” kicks off with a thick groove before launching into the Mach 5 smash-mouth metal riff.
“Fuck Today” is another song where Enabler throw a bit of solo flash over the main guitar line to open the groove. Then the song hangs tight in a bit of grindcore before heading back to thrash groove central. The title track is a straight up thrash jam, one that will bring back thoughts of Nuclear Assault and SOD. “They Live, We Sleep” brings out the march of demons style slow riff intro. The tension is so massive in this first guitar line that when the song opens up you want to kill everything. “False Profit” is a full on punk inspired grindcore song that presents one of the best lyrics on the album. When the vocals scream “Nobody is coming back from the dead” it’s an inspired bit of pro anti-religion bitterness.
What makes All Hail The Void work is a combination of different factors. First, this band isn’t afraid to play riffs that catch your attention. So many bands just play heavy riffs to be heavy or play fast. Enabler actually craft catchy guitar parts that still remain angry and heavy. Guitarist/Vocalist Jeff Lohrber weaves the two guitar lines played on each song perfectly before combining them into one unstoppable monolith. Lohrber also has an interesting voice. Caught between a wail and a scream, the vocals enrich the song instead of either just laying there or, as is in the case with so many bands, make the song worse.
The final bit of excellence comes with the drums. I’m not sure who is hitting the skins on All Hail The Void but this guy has to have six arms and a serious case of ADD. The marvel here is that the drums are fast and all over the place but never lose the groove. The come back to the main part right before they get to be too much. It’s clear this band spends time actually perfecting their songwriting as opposed to just smashing riffs together.
Anger and rage is fine. Heavy riffs and brutal drums are fine. However, if you can’t combine these elements then nothing you do really matters. Enabler usurp from many different metal influences and then sit back to construct what their sound will actually be. It’s so refreshing to be able to listen to an album all the way through and then listen to it for a couple of weeks without getting tired of it or just skipping to certain songs. Enabler are a band I expect great things from in the future and All Hail The Void is their announcement to the world that they are here.
The End Of The Ocean
Moving on, some of you might wonder why I’ve gone from the extreme metal of Enabler to the more pop-lush and indie rock vibe of The End Of The Ocean. In my opinion both bands stand out from their respective genres because of their songwriting ability. Enabler with extreme music and The End Of The Ocean with instrumental post-prog rock. The band’s latest EP In Excelsis is a shining example of how beautiful music can be. I love bands that play on emotions, be they anger, love or jubilation. I want something that will pluck my heartstrings and get me to feel. That’s what In Excelsis does from the very opening note.
Director John Cassavetes was often accused of wanting to capture human emotions on film, something he did effortlessly by allowing his films to open up our own minds and project those ideas into the movie. The End Of The Ocean does the same thing. They create music that is unique and very much their own but allow it to be universal. The songs on In Excelsis invites you to place your own experiences on the music so the tunes can become personal to you. So often bands want to cram their ideas down your throat, The End Of The Ocean is exactly the opposite.
The opening movement to In Excelsis is “On Floating”. The first sounds are light keyboards and gentle guitar picking. The drums come in slowly, filling the song up as other instruments become involved. “On Floating” slowly rolls open and then continuously builds to a melancholy crescendo. The End Of The Ocean isn’t afraid of silence, they use it expand the impact of the song. When “On Floating” stops and then comes back in it’s absolutely glorious. Laying back and listening to the song I feel like I’m driving. It’s late, the lights of the road are few and only a few small porch lights illuminate the darkness. When the song opens up its as if I’ve come around a corner and BAM the lights of the city hit me.
“Star Crossed” reminds me of falling in love. There’s an exciting rush at the beginning of the song that opens into something elevated and beautiful. Once those two parts top playing off each other “Star Crossed” moves into a quiet and delightful scene. Like two new lovers discovering each other. I may sound pretentious here but I don’t care. Each note the The End Of The Ocean plays touches me and that’s so rare I want to shout about it. “Star Crossed” even has a droning mid-section that could be seen as the turbulence all new love faces. It ends triumphantly, exactly as it should.
“Like Honey From The Branch” is the heaviest tune on In Excelsis. It opens with a full force assault of hammering guitars, drums, bass and keyboards. Everything plays together in a cacophony of sound before backing off for the dynamic low. What I dig here is that the band doesn’t stop playing all at once, they just subtly drop the intensity level. It makes the move seems less sudden and more thoughtful. I have no emotional context for “Like Honey From The Branch”, instead I’ve found myself laying in the dark listening to it continuously. It’s also quite inspirational when I have to write.
In Excelsisends with the epic “All That Is Will Cease”. This is the most complex song on the album. The drums are what hold the song together. Instead of being the anchor they are the guiding force. As the guitar notes hang delicately around the bass and the keyboards move playfully around the guitar notes, everything is being pushed ahead by the percussion. The band moves from lows to highs but never loses the drums as the engine to the tune. I identify “All That Is Will Cease” as something I want playing behind me as the world ends. The song actually has an entropy feel to it. Each instrument seems to be breaking down around the drums, much like society breaking down around a catastrophic event.
Complex songwriting, excellent musicianship and an ear for pop sensibilities are all things The End Of The Ocean posses. More importantly though, the have the skill to push emotional states into their music. When you don’t have something as easy as vocals to relate to, the music has to step up and make that connection. The End Of The Ocean realize that and execute it perfectly. In Excelsis is an outstanding record from a band that has yet to fail me. The only part that sucks is even with them living so close (they in Columbus, I in Cincinnati) I’ve never seen them live. Hopefully I can rectify that soon.