By Dr. Abner Mality
2022 has not been a good year for black metal, from what I can tell. It seems like many have tired of the style and are ready to move on. There are some exceptions, of course, and here is one. Surprisingly, VOAK is not a German band, despite the fact that “Verdrängung” is sung entirely in German. They hail from Greece and I spy the name of SPECTRAL LORE’s Ayloss in the credits. Now my interest is really piqued because SPECTRAL LORE is a fantastic band.
VOAK is paradoxical in that they have a strong core of traditional black metal and yet they subvert that tradition with influences outside of that.The result is an album that has a lot of character, that constantly keeps you interested in what’s going to happen next. It’s different from many other offerings on the I, Voidhanger label in that “Verdrängung” is a relatively short album, with short and punchy songs. This really works in its favor strongly.
After a somber piano intro, “Fūr Jede Wunde, Ein Pfeil” hits with a blizzard of droning black metal with catchy hooks. The production is tremendous and every instrument...yes, including bass...is clear as a bell. The drums have a huge, organic thump to them. Even with this relatively traditional track, the vocals are quirky, a characteristic that lasts throughout the album. After this opening, the songs start to experiment more, while staying true to a blackened core. Punk, Goth and New Wave find their way into tunes like “Offnungen”, “Die Verdrängung” and “Affektintoleranz”, mostly in vocal patterns, but sometimes in the actual riffing. There’s Middle Eastern world music in “Sabbat” while even the short instrumental “Rote Vogel” is full of personality and a kind of blurred sound. Violin pops up now and then and Ayloss himself contributes a guitar solo.
It all hangs together really well and the album is over before you know it. This is a great addition to the black metal universe that somehow adds new touches while staying absolutely faithful to the essence of what black metal is. Another winner for I, Voidhanger.