Warforged - I: Voice - (8.5/10)
Published on April 15, 2019
Seeing this band labeled as blackened death metal and hearing the first single “We’ve Been Here Before”, I got a profoundly negative first impression. It felt noisy, confusing and a bit aimless. But the technical abilities of all members were impressive enough for me to give the whole album a chance. After hearing it a couple of times and getting the big picture, things change. Now I have to warn you, if you’re not generally into extreme metal or progressive and complex music, these guys will certainly tear you to pieces but even so, I still think you should give them a try. “I: Voice” is well over an hour in length and it fills that time blending progressive technical death metal with black metal elements and a very dry production. It is vicious and definitely not for the faint-hearted. What they did here is take the very aggressive technical death style and made it even more aggressive because while most tech-death bands have a very polished and clean sound, these guys made it harsh and dry, hinting towards a black metal mix but still keeping certain elements clean and not allowing the music to fall apart. On a compositional level, it also merges these two genres into a style that is highly professional and progressive but also chaotic and devastating. The drums are highly relying on black metal techniques and constantly grinding away but also fill in with intricate details, grooves and subtle shifts in pattern that keep the backbone of the whole sound structure volatile and unstable. The bass is pummeling through at all times, never getting lost in the background and adds depth, volume and even a little melody. Then the guitar riffs and the vocals team up to unleash the most visceral downpour of noise they could create. To contrast with that insane cocktail, they used sections of clean guitar and piano that give you a breather every now and then and allow the music to balance itself out on some level. Putting all that together results in a very unique, remarkable sound and I honestly doubt anything quite like this was done in extreme metal before.
If I can find one clear negative to this, it is the vocal. I don’t mean to say that the guy can’t scream. He can actually do it very well, in various areas of frequency from low growls to incredibly high-pitched screaming but after a while it just starts feeling like he’s drilling through your brain. Just maybe I could compare it with Anaal Nathrakh screams. I guess I just don’t have what it takes to handle it for the whole run time. However, he does fit into the bands sound and makes sense in the context but I think a bit more pronunciation and depth and maybe less corrosive substance to his voice would make a difference for the better.
The coolest things and probably the key elements to creating their unique DNA are certainly the tuned down moments and the unpredictable nature of their songs. It takes no time at all for all the noise to cease and leave you with the clean guitar sound and piano and just as easily they will jump straight back into the onslaught. But there’s melody coming through in the aggressive parts too, primarily in the guitar leads (brief melodies hovering over the wall of sound or fully developed crazy guitar solos). Also when the keys are placed into the black metal mix, they sound clean and shine through the raw sound of the guitars creating an amazing contrast. Another fun thing to mention is the use of fade in effects on the guitar (best example is the very beginning of the album) and the abrupt mid-song stops that almost had me thinking the music was interrupted for some reason. It’s obvious then that they like to take you by surprise.
If I were to choose a favorite track it would certainly be “Voice” because I find it exploits the most of their creative talent, being more atmospheric and also extremely unpredictable. “Eat Them While They Sleep” is also a good one because of the psycho-jazz influenced piano solo. I have to admit, the first time hearing this album it really freaked me out and I really needed to just give it time to breathe and sink in after it was over. And I generally find it one of the most difficult albums I’ve listened to. I did like a lot of the stuff it threw at me but it remains a music that I rather admire than genuinely enjoy. The fact that the songs flow into each other also means it’s not very comfortable to just listen to a song or two and finding the time and energy to stream it in full is quite challenging. But you can’t really expect they made this to be easy. The truth is they are incredibly skilled musicians and they totally earned my respect.