Review: VOXILLARY – “Soul Laboured After Vocal Existence”… Posted: 05/04/2017 by Philip Morrissey
Despite the meld of different genres at the turn of the nineties, Industrial Metal never really caught on here. Considering how influential the rave culture was in Ireland from the late eighties on-wards, and the popularity of bands such as FEAR FACTORY, PRONG, NINE INCH NAILS and MINISTRY, bands taking up that mantle were few and far between. THE PRODIGY attracted by the movement found itself very quickly overtaken by others around them. Within a few years, bands incorporating beats were more likely to be associated with that of Nu-Metal. Even well established bands such as PARADISE LOST found that a change in styles was met with suspicion and apathy.
The absence of a straight up industrial metal band operating in Ireland did not mean that certain textures of it does not exist elsewhere. Keyboards and sound effects have made themselves a common part of many bands set up. Outfits as diverse as NOMADIC RITUALS, UNKINDNESS OF RAVENS, ÍWERIÚ, ALTAR OF PLAGUES, SVET KANT and more besides have employed the beating pulse and the darkness involved. The success of bands such as PENDULUM, RAMMSTEIN and the collaboration between KORN and SKRILLEX further enhanced its reputation. This blurring of lines between genres have lead many to re-appraise albums and bands that were perhaps overlooked at the time. It may also have helped develop this Dublin based quintet.
It has taken its time however. Having formed in 2008, it was not until the release of their ‘New World Order’ EP that a settled and cohesive line-up was put together. It seemed to have been more of a studio project up until that point. Two singles were released in 2014 and 2015 ahead of the release of this particular album (‘Skin Ripper’ and ‘Oraculum’ respectively). All seemed to have gone quiet again for a while. Then in late of last year, ‘Lonely Road’ was streamed ahead of the release of this album. The memorably titled “Soul Laboured After Vocal Existence” or “S.L.A.V.E” to make it easier.
It kicks of with a bleak opener, ‘Modern Slavery’. Over a track that resembles that of Psy-trance, a series of audio clips tells us of instances of how people become enslaved in modern society. A girl who is kidnapped and forced into prostitution, a woman who’s rights are taken away from to leave her stuck working in a kitchen and a generation of young boys stolen away from their families to become child soldiers. Definitely a portent of what to expect to come. Themes of corruption, destruction and annihilation. ‘Skin Ripper’ sweeps in with a swirling electronic backing and slow ominous thudding on the drums. This ramps up with the guitars and the keys to become something altogether more dirty sounding. And then the vocals come in. And I don’t know if they really work. Having a moody sound over such a dark theme “He’s ripped the skin right off my flesh” comes off as something of an awkward fit. ‘Lonely Road’ begins with a surging electronic piece that brings to mind the Vangelis theme from Blade Runner. Considering metallers appreciation of that particular movie, that sounds very promising. The guitars of Luca Spissu and bass work of Mark Galvin is suitably crunchy upon their entrance. The vocals are better on this as Agata Pawlowitz displays some melodic depth to it. It just feels like the impact is being taken away somehow.
The title number is where it really works. A slowly pulsating electronic piece by Zoe Kavanagh leads to a downright banging section. The vocals used, whether that of Pawlowitz or Kavanagh herself, really lend credence to it. It allows the listener to get a better sense of the power of the band. The pace drops and the usual vocals are employed again frustratingly. The contrast between the two makes itself evident when the heavier vocals appear again. The fact that this does not make itself more prevalent throughout, is what lets the album down for me. For most of the rest of the album, they almost sound too restrained and polite. Flat out aggression can be off-putting but at least a degree of contrast is required.
That is not to say that the rest of the album does not have its moments. ‘Kiss of Death’ has a decent staccato between the drums and keys and a decent heavy programming section half-way through. The melodic and laid-back piano work on ‘Dying Inside’ is particularly impressive to see out the track. Pawlowitz’s vocals do rise and soar accordingly during closing track ‘Her Vengeance’. The inspiration taken from bands such as COMBICHRIST and COVENANT do make themselves known here. At different points, their more goth rock sounds take over. They have taken on the lessons of the likes of SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES, THE CURE and THE SISTERS OF MERCY. More in terms of inspiration rather than full delivery though.
The band seem to be decent players and have worked hard at what they do. I would not dispute that. The question is in what direction they wish to go in. Do they want to pursue a poppy mainstream sound á la bands like EVANESCENCE to aspire to appear on Scuzz and similar type publications? Or do they aim to follow in the same path as legendary bands that came before them such as MINISTRY, NINE INCH NAILS, GODFLESH and K.M.F.D.M to reach for a greater degree of creative ambition. That decision remains with the band themselves.