About a year ago, one-man black metal outfit Void Ritual, the brainchild of Daniel Jackson, released Heretical Wisdom, a frosty yet melodic tribute to Scandinavian black metal that encapsulated what made that particular scene so exciting. It comprised densely layered melodies that uncurled to reveal chaotic energy with a dark, earthy atmosphere.
Historically and currently, black metal, sadly, has its sociopolitical problems that go beyond the music to become something all the more sinister, and Jackson has always strived to distance Void Ritual from that. Death Is Peace becomes the second record released on Ipos Music, a “label” dedicated to the support of LGBTQIA+ people and people of color by donating all revenue from album sales to organisations helping those who need it most. Over the last few years, we’ve seen an increase in underground metal artists (shout out to Blackened Death Records) and fans doing everything in their power to redress the balance and prove that riffs don’t mean shit if you’re out to cause harm.
Good things, however, can come from dark places and ‘The Howling Darkness’ is the perfect descriptor for both its own track as well as Death Is Peace as a whole, as it sits neatly in that nineties second wave era of black metal like Satyricon and early Ulver. This simple, fuzzy riff comes bursting out of the speakers and is instantly infectious before Jackson’s cavernous roar almost swallows it whole and the intensity only seems to increase. Switching pace slightly, the title track has this distinctive gallop that breaks the monotony of constant blast-beats and furious tremolo. It’s reminiscent of ‘Nachzehrer’, the closer and arguably best track from Heretical Wisdom, in that it’s as frenetic as it is grandiose and
The soaring, introspective and wonderfully bleak closer, ‘Loss (Pt. I)’, is the record’s high point, which is as much of a negative as it is a positive, as the record ends just when it gets to its most grandiose. The obvious note to that is that this is only the first chapter of this particular track’s life cycle. It’s laying the groundwork for an even more devastating conclusion, and considering how prolific Jackson has been since the start of Void Ritual, we surely can expect more material sooner rather than later that will flesh out these ideas to an even greater scale.
Death Is Peace feels like less of step-forward, but more a refinement of those skills displayed on Heretical Wisdom. It won’t set the world on fire, but it’s an important reminder that this style of black metal can still be produced to a high standard by artists with undeniable integrity and a fearlessly, progressive ideology.
Buy the record. Support music and human beings alike: https://iposmusic.bandcamp.com/album/death-is-peace