War From a Harlots Mouth- Voyeur
Those of us in the underground, Extreme Metal community have gotten pretty damn good and filtering through the endless garbage that invades the scene from all sides without every really having to listen to any of it. We have all developed a comfortable routine of check-marks, usually a mix of general broad guidelines and personal preferences, that allow us to avoid ever having to confront a single artist which may in anyway offend our sensibilities. We form safe, secure barriers around ourselves and let the shit that's flying from the fan bounce off it, allowing only the diamonds in the rough through the force-field.
Germany's War From a Harlots Mouth was one of my many "instant fuck-offs" the very second their existence became known to me. Between the bands absolutely stupid name(which remains embarrassingly bad), their affiliations with dozens of shit artists, and well...
Looking like that, I instantly wrote them off as Hot Topic overhead tunes for 13 year old scene queens who like to "mosh and fuck shit up" between classes at the Junior High School. I am, after all, and Extreme Metal sophisticate whose pure ears are better suited for brilliant, mind-altering music such as XXX Maniak and Cock and Ball Torture. A band like War From a Harlots Mouth was, I thought, below me.
Consider me properly fucking learned, for the bands most recent release Voyeur has reminded me one shouldn't judge a book by it's cover(a lesson I should have learned after Morbus Chron tricked with with their gorgeous pink cover art...). Don't mistake this for endless praise: Voyeur is not where near the best album I have ever heard nor does it feel particularly essential. But for an album which gives off such a Devil Wears Prada-esque vibe from it's asinine cover art and, well, the fact that the band is called War From a Harlots Mouth(ugh!), Voyeur is a damn solid little 40 minute album which, like a good book with a worn and tattered cover, needs to be cracked open to really enjoy.
WFaHM(even the abbreviation annoys me) have stumbled on a sound which certainly stands out from the vast majority of modern Metalcore bands, mixing the aggressive, tech-and-sludge of Gaza with the dissonance, off-kilter riffing of bands like Ulcerate, Deathspell Omega and Abyssal...and lots and lots of obnoxious and same-y sounding chugs(more on this later). It's a pretty cool style, one which I haven't heard any other artist attempt and one which certainly stands out in a sea of "me too" Unearth-clones. These styles might seem clashing, but throughout Voyeur WFaHM finds cool, interesting ways to make it work. "Vertigo" features some very cool dissonant leads over quiet, ambient compositions to match some vicious blast-beats and some very heavy, aggressive Sludge sections, while "Terrifier" actually starts off with a good breakdown before unleashing a torrent of blast-beats and hyper complex riffing which instantly brings to mind a Sludge-y Ulcerate smoking bowls in a Louisiana dive bar. "Terrifier" is particular is a great song, creating a really strong and atmospheric sense of unease with some truly evil sounding compositions, while "Of Fear and Total Control" is a more subdued and melodic track that also has some very strong atmospheric undertones, using some Black Metal-esque sections for maximum effect. When Voyeur works, it works really well and shocked me to know end when I first spun it front to back.
And this whole thing is driven by the fantastic production sound, which is both incredibly professional without being in anyway too slick or sterile. The guitars and bass are Leviathan-sized, completely crushing anything and everything beneath their massive weight. The drums are obviously triggered, but they sound great, with very little to no "clicking" on the kick or the snare, which is a death-knell for most modern Metal of any genre. Obviously supported by time and money, Voyeur is one of the best sounding Extreme Metal albums I listened to in a long time, keeping all the punch and static without giving up on clarity and balance. It's a brilliant piece of sound engineering that helps elevate Voyeur to new levels that perhaps the music couldn't quite reach on it's own.
Yet for all it's strength, Voyeur suffers from a lack of concrete ideas to support the WFaHM ambitious style. Around the track "Temple," Voyeur quite literally grinds to a halt creatively and in some seemingly desperate scrambling begins to recycle it's own compositions for the second half. It's not a completely unimpressive second leg, but it is mostly forgettable, heavily handicapped by the incessant chugging which begins to infect it. There is quite a bit of chugging throughout the album, but it reaches a fever pitch in the second half, ending with the sleep-inducing "Scopophobia," which when it isn't chugging features an atrocious clean vocal section and riffs pretty much stolen from "Of Fear and Total Control." In truth, there is such a thing as a "good chug" (see "Terrifier"), but if your tolerance for chugging is low, then even the best elements of Voyeur will leave you cold, so be forewarned. It also doesn't help that vocalist Nico Webers is abysmal, belting out his weak, uninteresting Hardcore growl for most of the record.
For a brief moment, I lifted my blinders and discovered quite the surprise in Voyeur. And my final score isn't really indicative of the enjoyment I got from it, but Voyeur feels like an incomplete album which is missing many key elements for brilliance or even consistent competency. Yet for it's fault Voyeur is a fucking heavy album, sounds great and has some atmosphere and intensity to it, enough so that it's worth listening to. So does this mean that I will no longer judge bands by their name? By who they associate with? By their physical apperance?
This...or the...Apocalypse? Really? No thanks.