Body Void – Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth

Band: Body Void
Title: Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth
Label: Prosthetic Records
Release date: 23 April 2021
Country: USA
Format reviewed: Digital Download

Body Void is a band I stumbled upon a few months ago and was immediately intrigued by. I was sent a promo of the latest album “Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth” weeks ago, but it’s taken me this long to write a review. The reason? Well, frankly the world of Body Void is a demanding one for the listener. The songs are long, slow, incredibly heavy and the atmosphere extremely dark and oppressive. The best comparison I can make would be something like the slow, percussive power of “Cop/ Young God” era Swans with some of the noise-driven aesthetics of EyeHateGod or Gnaw Their Tongues. None of these reference points quite do the band justice, but they give an idea of the sonic intensity at play here. Add to that the evocative lyrics of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Willow Ryan, which match the intensity of the music and altogether you have an extremely powerful, but emotionally draining listening experience. So it took me a while, but I got through it and here we are.

Until fairly recently a trio, Body Void now consists of Willow plus drummer Edward Holgerson. The latest album is the band’s third, after their 2016 debut “Ruins” and its follow up 2018’s “I Live Inside a Burning House”. Whatever effect this has had on the songwriting process, the aesthetics of the music seem to have been maintained. No stranger to long songs, “Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth” consists of four tracks, each of which clocks in a shade over 12minutes in length. These are not journeys of significant musical development and exploration. The changes through each track are often subtle and there’s very little if any release to be had (although there are moments where the band suddenly pick up the pace in bursts). For the most part what you will experience are slow, crushing, heavily distorted, landscapes of torment. Yeah, I think that pretty much captures it.

Opening track “Wound” comes at the listener a crackling overdriven storm, sounding something like Godflesh or Jesu but with the piercing screams of Willow rather than the deep growl of Justin Broadrick from those bands. The flow reminds me of Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean and their cover of “I Will Possess Your Heart”, but slower and more grueling. The drums are solid and crisp, mostly kick drum, snare and cymbal crashes, with the occasional tom roll, nothing fancy, but effective. The track contains one of the band’s above mentioned sudden, brief bursts of speed about 4:40 in. For the rest of the track there’s this hypnotic quality, but it’s also pretty emotionally gruelling, with lyrics seemingly about humankind’s wilful destruction of nature.

If I remember correctly from an interview I read with Willow, the lyrics on this album are less introspective than they have been on past releases. There’s still very much a personal, inward reflecting quality, but the theme of environmental destruction is something that continues throughout the album, for example on the next track “Laying Down in Forest Fire” (I love this title). Continuing in much the same vein as the opening track, “Forest Fire” takes the listener on a long trek before it gets to its climax, but when it does it’s powerful and effective. This “climax” is hard in itself to define. There’s no dramatic shift in the music, but there’s a noticeable ramping up of intensity and it really hits home.

The lyrics of this album are definitely deserving of close attention (not always the case with extreme metal where the words can sometimes feel almost incidental) and maintain their power even without the music. The closing lines of “Fawn” for example, are an effective snapshot into this lyrical world:                                                                     

“A phantom head
The corpse of a fawn
You try to ignore it
It will replace you”

The track is also notable for the higher, ringing guitar passage that comes in midway through. Up to this point on the album the guitars are all really deep and building this harsh, distorted resonance with the bass. With such an oppressive, heavy sound, any kind of deviation really stands out.

Listening to this album I keep coming back to the same musical reference points, Swans and Gnaw Their Tongues. For me “Cop” by Swans is the benchmark for slow, repetitive, overwhelming percussive nastiness. With both this album and “All The Dread Magnificence Of Perversity” by Gnaw Their Tongues, I had the same initial feeling of “Oh this is like Cop, but taking the harshness to the next step”. In both cases I quickly realised I’d underestimated just how much harsher these records are. Whether the band would appreciate these musical reference points I’m not sure. One thing that sets Body Void apart from those bands is the introspective, searching and socially conscious aspect of the lyrics. I suppose what I’m circling around is that this music is not nihilistic to me, but sounds extremely pained and that’s a hard musical world which I need a certain amount of fortitude to sit through. It was definitely worth my time though and I’ll be back, but I might need a good few cute puppy videos on YouTube to top me up first. 7.5/10 Tom Boatman

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