Baltimore’s Void of Kings released an impressive debut today. Stand Against The Storm is an addictive album, melodic guitar lines, gorgeous clean vocals, and remarkably intelligible screaming even for entry-level metal fans all supporting thought-provoking lyrics that reach far beyond typical angsty hardcore topics without collapsing into arena/prog platitudes. Each song is a meditation on a theme, and perusing the lyrics feels almost like the Cliff’s Notes version of a particularly passionate philosophy textbook. With imagery drawn from Greek mythology (“Crossing the Acheron”), Latin legal terms (“Pathways”), The Matrix (“Surrender”), Shakespeare and biology (“Serotinous Seed”), frontman Brian Behm and his cohorts have set the intellectual bar high for their listeners. Despite all this high-mindedness, this is still a metalcore band, and the music is just as visceral as one would expect from any release in that genre. Producer Will Beasley has a long and successful career ahead of him if all his work maintains this level of excellence. It takes an expert to get drums with punch, clean and screamed vocals, propulsive basslines, and ferocious dueling guitars into a mix this crispy.
This is music without pretension or gimmick, avoiding the scene’s recent preoccupation with electronics, sampling, and alternative instrumentation to go straight for the jugular. I’ve been disillusioned with heavy music of late, occasional bright spots from bands like Every Time I Die and Touche Amore notwithstanding. This record reminds me why I got into it in the first place: these guys really care. The antithesis of the affect of ironic distance pervasive in so much modern music without the cloying sweetness of twee, the raw realities presented herein should provoke the fluctuation between anguish and anger that provides so much of the push and pull in the music. The band and the vocalists mirror each other, conveying their concepts lyrically and viscerally at the same time. Appropriately for Void of Kings’ philosophic bent, dichotomies dissolve throughout the album as the deeply personal is extrapolated out to the broadly universal and vice versa. The seamless transition from “Wounds” to “Scars” links them inextricably in my mind, so that eight minutes and thirty seconds stands as my favorite track, with the former focusing on the injuries the narrator has caused, and the latter on those he has received. It’s a redemptive journey, the hope held out by “Scars” the phoenix rising from the ruin depicted in “Wounds”. This theme of renewal builds throughout Stand Against The Storm, climaxing in the final song, “Serotinous Seed”. As explained on their website, serotinous seeds are those that are activated by environmental factors, typically heat, so that the plants that have them are the first to return after a forest fire. Hopefully the seeds of their music and message will spread through the metal environment, catalyzing change and positivity in a scene that sorely needs it.
By Dave Fox | Philadelphia Ambassador | @philosofoxthedj | Beat-Play and Music Without Labels, LLC