I’ve been a fan of Voice of the Soul since pretty much day one, and there are many embarrassing pictures that can attest to this (all of which involve either a shisha place or the Hard Rock Cafe in Kuwait…great, now I feel old). These buggers have been making music together since 2008, and finally, in 2014 we have a VotS full-length record, and here I was wasting away to nothing but a skeletal shell of my former self!
All joking aside, I have listened to and probably been present for a lot of the recording that went into the band’s first three EPs (hell I even sang on an early demo…well I say sang, I did a brilliant pterodactyl impression) and the one thing that I can say about debut “Catacombs” is that aside from the same core members and a few recogniseable song writing traits, this album could not be more different from the band’s earlier releases. It’s less pissed off and angry and more dark and doomy. In short, it makes Batman look like a big ol’ ball of happiness. BUT does this record suck?…FUCK NO!! This is a sign of a matured band, who’ve grown beyond the angsty nature of their Middle-Eastern beginnings and evolved into something greater!
One of the biggest alterations is the addition of amped up synths, lending an eerie atmosphere to this already haunting record. “Desolation” is almost an enticement, drawing you in like a moth to bug zapper before being viscerally incinerated by the double bass pump and fiery main riff of “Perpetual Deception.” Although my biggest surprise is the new found depth (which we used to tease him about) of frontman Kareem Chehayeb’s vocals. Holl-eeeee-shit this man could growl the whiskers off of a grizzly bear, lending a newfound gravitas to the band. Lead single “Pendulum” continues suit, with Kareem “Grizzly” Chehayeb assaulting our ears once again, punctuated by machine gun drums and an aggressively doomy riff (hello there oxymoron). “Quarantine” and “Cold Rupture” provide a simultaneous downward spiral and upwards turn with some guitar melodies sicker than an anaemic parrot whilst instrumental “The Mist” (composed by guitarist Monish “Momo” Shringi) provides an almost Devin Townsend-esque air of tranquillity.
My personal favourite track has to be “Defiled” featuring a dominant display of Chehayeb’s near infamous guitar skill. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bluesy solo on a death metal track until now, and it works surprisingly well! Album close “Images Subside” closes off the album in splendid fashion, toning the solos down to an almost hypnotic state and featuring a guest appearance from Egan Rourke of Daylight Dies contrasting brilliantly with Chehayeb’s demonic snarl.
Overall, this record was both surprising and pretty solid. Voice of the Soul have definitely matured since their beginnings, developing their sound into a darker and bolder sounding sonic wall. However, I was a little shocked at the lack of a really really reheheeeaaaallly fast, skull crushing song. Don’t get me wrong, songs akin to “Nemesis” by Arch Enemy and whatnot would be way out of place on a record like this, however a lot of the songs appear to keep to a similar pace, and it would have been cool to see the band channel some aspects of their well-loved faster tracks.
This record is by no means bad, and definitely worth a listen if you want some darker than black metal. It may not sound much like the band’s early material, but, much like humans and Pokemon, Voice of the Soul have evolved into something sonically big, that have clearly got the potential to shake things up in the Middle-Eastern metal scene once again, and “Catacombs” gives said “shake-up” a great start.
I’m giving Catacombs a rating of:
“Catacombs” – 7.5/10