Album Review: VoidOath – Ascension Beyond Kokytus

Album Review: VoidOath – Ascension Beyond Kokytus
Reviewed by Sam Jones

For this band we’re heading on over to Costa Rica, a place on Earth I can’t recall ever hearing of an extreme metal band ever emanating from. VoidOath therefore are rather unique in that respect and as a Doom/Sludge band no less too. Hailing from San Jose, the band formed in 2018 where, in 2020, they released via independent means their first EP titled Illumination Through Necromancy. It would appear this EP garnered some particular attention seeing as the band were soon picked up by record label Harmful Existence Productions. This now brings us to 2022’s Ascension Beyond Kokytus, the band’s debut full length release. With their album art appearing to be a homage towards John Carpenter’s The Thing, I was hooked in straight away to what this record could boast. Let’s see what these Costa Ricans are made of.

The record may have pretty long tracks up its sleeve for us, but that doesn’t stop VoidOath from getting stuck into the mix of things pretty early on. Following a brief synthesiser introduction, the band familiarise us with the general soundscape we’ll be assaulted by for the duration of our stay: a crushing, ethereal nightmare. I particularly appreciated how, in spite of an opening 15 minute song, the band don’t just repeat the same song and dance bands may be noted for and simply unveil a typically doom-trodden aesthetic. As you listen to the band play, you recognise that it is slow, but it always feels like it’s moving someplace. You may not be sure where it’s going to end you up, but it’s good to acknowledge the band don’t simply immerse you within some directionless void. The songwriting is forever possessing a sense of purpose so while you’re enjoying a legitimately long track, you still have the confidence in VoidOath to know there’s genuine reason behind the instrumentation and vocals they’re employing herein.

I was especially taken aback when I heard the first blast beat during this album. You don’t hear many blast beats in doom/sludge metal like this and yet, VoidOath are one such example of it not only being utilised but actually fitting into the sound the band have been constructing for their audience. On the whole, I love the feeling the drums exhibit here. They feel as much a powerful and active player in the band’s sound as any riff or change in songwriting would be; they don’t come off with tinny effect, they harness this thick and taut resonance so when their drummer is really going for it, it’s reminiscent of a rogue wave or an oncoming landslide. It generates great levels of power not by the force it pushes into your face, but the sense that death is here, encapsulating you with little sign of escape. The prominent thick, taut sound creates a bouncing effect where their onslaughts aren’t grating either, it’s a genuinely invigorating and essential part of the VoidOath experience.

Album Review: VoidOath – Ascension Beyond Kokytus

I find it interesting that the synthesiser work we discover at the beginning of this album isn’t merely some brief aesthetic for us to become immersed at the start. It’s such a unique implementation and for a doom album of this writing as well. What it does is underlay the album in an entire synth foundation that you cannot be without, as a result VoidOath have crafted an album that will never lose your attention or engagement because, unlike lots of doom bands, their sound is never going to possess a naked wall of sound where nothing else is propagated. Even if there are segments where our attention is less inclined towards a specific piece of songwriting there will always be the synth work behind everything else to give us something to latch on to. It also continues to decorate the record in this ethereal and otherworldly vibe without it coming off as ultra-sci-fi; people would be able to thoroughly enjoy this album who aren’t science fiction fans because the band are never thrusting it straight into your face. They simply allow that sublime piece of aesthetic to mull there, waiting for the audience to discover and appreciate it.

I’m so thankful for the album structure VoidOath ensured was made apparent throughout this work. With only 5 tracks for the full near-50 minute running, that naturally suggests to the uninitiated we’re going to get some lengthy pieces. That can instil trepidation into those unused to long tracks, however the band make sure your listening experience is smooth as can be by effectively cutting this album into two unofficial halves. The interlude may only be extremely quick, hardly more than 30 seconds, but it’s at least something to break up the flow of this record. It prevents this album from becoming old quickly By keeping the record broken up even to the small degree the band have done so here, they’ve made sure things are smoother than they would had they done nothing at all. I think the band also help themselves in how they’ve, as we’ve mentioned prior, conducted their songwriting. The additions of an ethereal vibe and songwriting that doesn’t merely place you within one square for the full album does wonders to give this record the ability to move and around without having many tracks to work off of.

In conclusion, VoidOath’s first full length release is a fantastic start for the band. This is the kind of sludge and doom metal that people can really get behind because the overall experience isn’t simply derived from instrumental and vocal ability. It stems from the band’s ability to immerse you within this soundscape without it being so obvious as to how they’re attempting to do so; you’re simply going along with it. The band don’t demand anything of you nor are your senses being grated against the whole time. Ascension Beyond Kokytus is a record that does possess some long tracks yet at no discernible point did my attention to their sound ever wane or drop off; the fact that VoidOath could throw a 15 minute song right at the start of their record, their longest, and completely satisfy us from the get go is a rare feat. Most bands would leave such an opus as their concluding piece but for these guys, this is the norm. The band manage to control their sense of scale with songwriting that never tries to be too massive which also helps with their style having a legitimate sense of direction. The band know what they set out to do and I’d argue they succeeded wildly. This was one excellent listen and I’d fervently recommend this to new, avid fans of doom.

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