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Golden Void - Golden Void

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Artist: Golden Void

Album: Golden Void

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Nov. 9, 2012

Golden Void is named after a Hawkwind song, a guitar and synthesizer freak out from 1975’s Warrior on the Edge of Time, the same album, coincidentally, that provided the name for Lemmy Kilmister’s post-Hawkwind gig (ahem, “Mötorhead”). It’s not a bad point of reference for this excess-loving band of psychedelicists. TrouserPress’s Jim Green enumerates Hawkwind’s virtues as “that gargantuan and impenetrable pre-metal/hardcore drone, those great riffs, that inexorable drive to destinations unknown.” He could just as well be talking about Golden Void.

Yet Golden Void filters 1970s metal-prog bravado through a West Coast underground psych lens, slipping languid blues-tripping guitar solos between monstrous, wall-to-wall riffs, finding a droning center in the most violent onslaughts. Isaiah Mitchell, once of Earthless, gets to sing here, floating an eerie, heavily-echoed, fundamentally serene tenor over lurching, sawed off guitar salvos. Cream’s Jack Bruce is probably the classic model for what he’s doing vocally, the coolness, the trippiness, the nearly crooning gentleness against blistered distortion, but you can hear younger guys like Matt Reed from Mount Carmel and Joel Winter (formerly of Pearls and Brass) trying a similar alchemy. There are some very nice, absolutely nailed harmonic bits in these songs, too, especially the two at the end, “The Curve” and “Atlantis.” The drum-bass-guitar sound is loud, leaning from 1970s hard rock into metal, but the singing is near folky and strikingly melodic.

After the singing, maybe the next most interesting thing about Golden Void is Justin Pinkerton’s drumming, which is light and limber, almost dancing over the surface of these heavy songs. “Virtue,” which is built on an abrupt, massive and very Sabbath-like riff (think “War Pigs”), gains a levity from Pinkerton’s mercurial counterpoints, which splatter around, rather than reinforcing, the main instrumental assault. Camilla Saufly-Mitchell, who also plays in Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound, colors and counterbalances these songs, her keyboards a wail in “Badlands,” a shimmering will o’ the wisp in “Jetsun Dolma.” Aaron Morgan, on bass, has some lovely, subtle moments, too, as a balance to Mitchell’s wah-laced blues shredding in “Jetsun Dolma,” as the irresistible force pushing “Virtue” forward.

The problem with Golden Void is that it sounds so much like the Black Sabbath, with its intricate, chopped up time signatures, its big-footed riffs, its surprising facility with tunefulness even during mayhem. You can’t go three minutes without thinking about how Ozzy and Co. did all this a long time ago — in “Fairies Have Boots,” “Children of the Grave,” “Into the Void” or toward the end of the disc in “Atlantis” when things get languid and pretty with “Planet Caravan.” “Which Sabbath is this,” my husband asks me when “Virtue” comes up on random play, and I’m tempted to say, “The new one…but the line-up is all different.”

By Jennifer Kelly

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