Many critics saw Voices’ London as the most overlooked record of 2014, owing to the way it delivered a dark sting of morbid anger and pain, with bleak lyrics of jealousy, sex, and misery painted over the grey background of the capital city, all layered by vicious strokes of progressive extreme metal. Now after some time away working on other projects like Akercocke and Shrines, the quartet are back with follow-up Frightened, their third crushing strike to metal’s limitations, helping the genre blossom and bloom into an artform.
Having done releases with multiple projects since you released London in 2014, with Akercocke, The Antichrist Imperium, Shrines and more, what made you feel like it was time for another Voices record?
Sam Loynes (guitars): All these projects are active simultaneously. Voices never stops. It continues whenever I pick up my guitar or when Pete, Dan or David play or conceive new music or content of any type. When I sit at my piano, a new piece of music indefinable by any of the projects may come about. From there it’ll surface in one of the projects. Usually, it is pretty clear which project any given piece may be best suited to. Once an album’s worth of music is there then there really is no excuse not to allow that to manifest into a finished, tangible thing.
You’ve described your live shows as more of an “exhibition” than a gig, can you elaborate on what the difference between the two is? Do you feel your other projects also do exhibitions rather than gigs?
Voices is pursuing challenging and deeply creative music, video content, and beyond. The reason we like to phrase our live shows as “exhibitions” is that we tentatively consider the music to be artful. We welcome any form of consumption a listener may choose to have but often when we play people are standing there as onlookers, perhaps parallel to the way an art exhibition is seen in a museum. We welcome any cathartic reaction from the crowd, however we seldom see anything like that and it is more often the case fans are in a trance-like state. We hope to increase the immersive experience of our live exhibitions with our latest material, both for us as performers but most importantly for those masochistic enough to want to endure an hour’s worth of our music.
We were excited to see your dark and avant-garde music videos return with ‘Petrograph’. Can we expect more of these in the future? Are there any pieces of film or directors that directly influence these videos?
Absolutely. We have always worked very visually. London was conceived mostly out of visualisations inspired by the music we were creating. It is difficult to know were each ends or begins. Needless to say, a goal of ours is to create cinematic music. We have been inspired by many works of film literature and art. Kubrick is certainly one that springs to mind. I think it is best to remain distant with these things, so it is best for the music to lead listeners into the worlds of influence we derive our work from.
You’ve described ‘Petrograph’ and also your sound in general as “the true sound of South London”, whilst the video is shot there and obviously the last album was called London. What about the city inspires you? And what about it invokes such a dark sound?
The urban landscape which we are steeped in provides a constant source of dark inspiration. Life in London is a challenge. However, through the pollution, the crowds of negative people, the noise and the violence there is also a kind of urban beauty that lies dormant beneath. We hope to convey this tension through our sound. Frightened keeps this sense of dread versus a more ethereal dream-like beauty. We simply cannot have one without the other.
You’ve said that ‘Petrograph’ was produced “out of vast and intense improvisation”, is this also the case with the new album’s writing process?
No, this time this is not the case – this being the main difference between Frightened and our other work. These are mostly very considered songs, written with the intention of being “songs” in a more traditional sense. There is verse/chorus/verse structure throughout. Whilst we have certainly maintained our abstractions within the songwriting, we have consciously written a set of hits. We could not repeat another higher concept album as we exhausted that with London. That goal has been achieved there; no way would we seek to repeat or regurgitate. We all brought blueprint versions of the songs to the table, we then work through them trying to elevate the songs to their fullest. I believe we have reached this with Frightened.
What made you take that improvisational approach? It must take a lot of chemistry with one another when the pieces of music are rather complex.
We have all played in varying projects for years. Straight away we all had a musical language. There is a common thread of open-mindedness, whereby we all have an extremely wide range of music, film and art that speaks to us. So, this translates into a genuine musical connection that allows for, at times, incredible musical spontaneity. This can be best heard in a song such as ‘Fuck Trance’. The way you hear it on the album is largely how it was conceived in the moment.
The track (Petrograph) seems to no longer be on the album, did you decide to cut it?
It’s a song that stands alone unto itself created during a transitional period for the band post-London. We needed to step outside of the world we had immersed ourselves in. As you will hear, Frightened resides firmly within a post-punk-meets-extreme-metal context. It ebbs and flows between the two and represents our take on music and the music we have all been influenced by. I’m sure the more discerning listener will identify the strands of our most admired musical icons.
After the dark cityscape London took us to, where does Frightened take us? Is it an even darker place?
This is entirely subjective. It really depends on any given person’s own perception of the music. Needless to say, it will take you somewhere. Where exactly is yet to be determined.
Your Metal Archives page describes some of your lyrical themes as “Jealousy”, “Sex”, and “Rain”, which we thought was an interesting summarisation. Are there any terms you would like to add to this? What lyrical themes does Frightened explore? Is it also a concept album?
Frightened is not a concept piece, London really exhausted this disposition for us. We believe it was the zenith of our manic yet holistically organic creative period. Frightened does not lack in creativity but perhaps it is more about the music and the songs themselves. The majority of the songs are hits. No avoiding that. Perhaps the perfect antidote for those wanting “dark pop” songs on a path of metallic abstraction and melancholy. Lyrically, Frightened deals once more with jealousy, sex, rain and perhaps this time the new addition of love, or at least the failure of love.
You’ve stated before that your main goal with Voices is to satisfy yourselves, have you achieved this with Frightened? With London being an album you were so proud of were you stricter with yourselves as a result?
Frightened truly sonifies music that we want to hear. Luckily when taking this approach in the past it seems we are not alone in this desire. There is simply no band doing what we do, so it has taken us to do it.
Frightened is out now on Candlelight/Spinefarm Records. Purchase here.
Words: Jack Richard King