Sweden’s CRAFT really are the spaghetti and meatballs of Black Metal. There’s nothing terribly flashy or fancy to their particularly orthodox brand of slightly groovy Black Metal but they always get the job done. “Void” – their first collection of new music since 2005’s “Fuck The Universe” turned out to be a bit of a sleeper hit for yours truly; sure, other Black Metal albums were better (WOODS OF DESOLATION), others were more challenging (KRALLICE), but ultimately I ended up listening to “Void” more than just about every other album released during the latter half of last year.
The overriding influence here is still DARKTHRONE (both their old school and more Black/Punk leanings), this much is obvious when cracking songs like “Serpent Soul”, Come Resonance Of Doom” and “Succumb To Sin” start blaring through the speakers. They all succeed in effortlessly infusing a traditionally abrasive style of no-frills Black Metal with some rollicking Rock and Punk grooves, while never neglecting to spice things up with some patently cold leads which add a sense of forlornness to proceedings. The tempo remains relatively mid-paced throughout, but the band occasionally dips its toes in slower, almost Doom like dirges (see Leaving The Corporal Shade” and “Bring On The Clouds”). These snail-paced songs aren’t really all that impressive, but thankfully there are songs like the blisteringly intense “I Want To Commit Murder” on hand to add some balance to the overall flow. The album also ends off in the best possible way, with the monumental title track being the best on offer here. Starting off a tad nondescript with some arbitrary background noise and guitar reverb it soon builds into a steamrolling monster, with hammering in-your-face riffs offset by some horrendously bleak (i.e. good) leads which adds such an undeniably desolate vibe to affairs you’d swear the earth will open up momentarily and swallow you whole.
Production-wise there are no qualms from my side, everything is punchy and clear, and the overall sense of synergy between the members is palpable. Vocalist Michael Nox deserves special mention for his brilliant performance – his vicious rasps recall the great Nocturno Culto at his best. Even the rather blunt cover art, which depicts the band joyously saluting what is presumably a nuclear mushroom-cloud in the distance, is perfectly in line with the spirit of the songs contained herein.
The six year wait was nothing if not agonizing but I can confidently state that “Void” has been worth it. It is a significant improvement upon the lacklustre “Fuck The Universe”, and together with 2002’s “Terror Propaganda” this is easily the best CRAFT disc your money can buy.
(Online February 7, 2012)