Predatory Void – Seven Keys to the Discomfort of Being (Century Media Records)

Friday, 28th April 2023
Rating: 9 / 10

The height of the pandemic was a time where musicians needed to find things to occupy time, and out of that came a number of interesting new projects that may not have been if not for these uniquely dire circumstances. Predatory Void is one such project, begun by Amenra/Oathbreaker guitarist Lennart Bossu as a means to keep busy. This grew into a new, fully formed band of nearby and like-minded musicians – including fellow Amenra member and bassist Tim De Gieter, Cobra the Impaler guitarist Thijs de Cloedt, Carnation drummer Vincent Verstrepen, and Cross Bringer vocalist Lina R. Culminating from this union of talented artists from across the spectrum of heavy music is Seven Keys to the Discomfort of Being, an entity of dark, blackened, and melancholic sludge/doom metal that is distinctly different from other similar amalgamations of said styles.

Slow stomping riffs immediately erupt in “Grovel” to seemingly set the tone. However, the tempo explodes at about the 40 second mark, with quick drum work and snarling screams from Lina R taking hold, who also provides some haunting clean vocals later in the song. This track teeters back and forth between frenetic and brooding, displaying to the listener to expect the unexpected. A blackened post metal turn begins “*(struggling..)” with clean guitars layered amongst the chaotic distorted rhythms. Vocalist Lina R provides more cavernous, soothing cleans, adding contrast to the otherwise abrasive soundscapes. Not devoid of melodic moments, they are sprinkled throughout Seven Keys to the Discomfort of Being, brought out at timely moments to steer proceedings satisfyingly into many spheres of influence and direction. The otherwise death/doom inclinations of “The Well Within” being a fitting example of such usage.

If sludgy doom is what one is after, “Endless Return to the Kingdom of Sleep” will satiate via drone-like methodologies that conversely know exactly when to snap into beatdown mode with moments of violent aggression. A dreary acoustic interlude in “Seeds of Frustration” is placed around the midpoint of the album, setting up the rest of proceedings and to provide a timely respite. Expect an intricate combination of doom with a death metal thump ala Evoken in “Shedding Weathered Skin,” while the nearly 10 minute album closer “Funerary Vision” is cemented in the post-black metal stylings of Oathbreaker, diversified by downtrodden clean guitar passages amongst numerous twists and tempo changes.

Bossu’s influence is obvious as primary songwriter (though every member had a hand in writing the album), with pieces of his other bands being ever present in Predatory Void’s sound; from the doom-inspired hardcore onslaughts of Amenra, the post-metal creativity of Oathbreaker, and even the death metal crunch of Living Gate. With that said, not one of these influences dominates, nor once feels like a slightly tweaked version of one of the mentioned projects. Predatory Void is very much its own animal, taking a large influence from many styles and combining them into a dreary incursion of the senses. Encapsulating this is the astute production, spearheaded by bassist De Ginter, with an end result that’s a pleasingly sordid, yet clear and concise sound that successfully dials in the record’s intrinsic personality.

Anyone who is familiar with and enjoys the projects that the members of Predatory Void are crucial parts of will absolutely find plenty to indulge upon. Even to the uninitiated, Predatory Void is easily worth giving a significant bit of time to dive deeply into. Seven Keys to the Discomfort of Being is an exemplification on eclectic songwriting prowess, technical ability, and a focused vision realized by all involved; a melting pot of varying styles all fitting together to spawn a sound that’s familiar and excitingly fresh all at once.

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