Friday, June 15, 2012

Internal Void - 'Voyage'

The demonstration. That initial collection of tunes designed to circulate at shows in an attempt to garner fans, handed out for the enjoyment of friends or distributed to labels in hopes of landing a record deal is something of an anomaly in the metal world. Metal, unlike any other music genre, reveres that initial release commonly referred to as a demo. In this age of the internet bands have instantaneous wide distribution for their demos, but it’s up to the fans to pass the final judgment and bands carry the burden of proving themselves with their first proper release. Both Windhand’s ‘Practice Space Demo’ and Pallbearer’s ‘2010 Demo’ are recent examples of bands living up to expectations and bestowing upon their fans excellent first albums. It is also not uncommon for a band’s demo to be released or reissued following their studio output as was the case with Blood Farmers’ ‘Permanent Brain Damage’. Without this phenomenon Internal Void’s ‘Voyage’ demo would sadly go unnoticed and unheard by doom-heads across the globe save perhaps for that small contingency of fans lucky enough to live in or around Maryland in the early 90s.

Internal Void’s ‘Voyage’ demo is a vinyl only re-release of the cassette and is a beautiful limited edition of 300 copies with white splatter on translucent blue vinyl. The band’s distinctive blend of rock, psychedelia, and doom are clearly manifested on this demo and, had this been widely circulated prior to the ‘Standing on the Sun’ album, it would have heralded great things to come.

Despite the song title, opening track “Nothing But Misery” gallops at a rock n’ roll clip occasionally downshifting gears into a more doomed-out pace showcasing the band’s mastery of playing rock tinged doom metal. Even on this early demo vocalist J.D. Williams exhibits his range as a vocalist. His voice effortlessly switches between singing in raspy lower ranges or the nasally tones often associated with Ozzy which dominates the first song on ‘Voyage’. It’s a solid album opener that hints at some of the great compositions that the band would later produce on ‘Standing on the Sun’ or the excellent ‘Unearthed’.

Album highlight “The Entrance” makes this demo well worth the purchase and is one of the best tunes ever penned by the band. It’s surprising that it was never rerecorded for any of their future releases. Unlike the opening track, “The Entrance” brings the doom in the form of a bass-heavy psychedelic groover accompanied by sections of flanged guitar. Like many of Internal Void’s songs this track shifts in tempo allowing the song to uncoil and breathe.

Side A concludes with a return to straight-up rock with “A Thousand Souls” which pushes J.D.’s vocals to their raspy limits. It’s a song that stands out as an oddball track not because it sounds different from the band’s other material, but because it sounds as if it would be much more at home on their last studio album ‘Matricide’—an album released thirteen years after the recording of ‘Voyage’.

“Chasing the Dragon” kicks off side B with a galloping bassline and a riff that could have come straight from “Fast” Eddie Clarke’s songbook. Initially it’s a Motorhead/punk infused track that slows down to a crawl for the chorus where J.D. proclaims: “I’m wasted every day/And I’m burning a good mind away/But I’m living for what I enjoy/As I slip into this evil void.” Not the most profound sentiment, but still words to live by.

The self-titled album closer “Internal Void” follows a brief and forgettable acoustic track entitled “Morning”. Like “The Entrance” this tune is firmly rooted in the doom metal tradition and is accented sporadically by acoustic guitar flourishes. It wouldn’t be an Internal Void track if it didn’t unravel and naturally explore different tempos, a quality that adds to the durability of their discography. 

Internal Void doesn’t play brooding, melancholic doom. Their sound is complex and is representative of the Maryland scene while still sounding like no other. The ‘Voyage’ demo is essential for long time fans or it would be an excellent starting place for the uninitiated. ‘Voyage’ is the perfect way to kickoff the vinyl reissues of Internal Void’s discography. With any luck ‘Standing on the Sun’ will be pressed and released by year’s end.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Doommantia)

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