Voices - Breaking The Trauma Bond (Cover Artwork)


Breaking The Trauma Bond (2021)

Church Road

Me and my buddies used to smoke in the porchway of a church down the aptly-named Church Road in my hometown when I was young. It had a bench, a roof, a light. Basically, everything you needed to blaze in peace. At the time I was more concerned with drum ‘n’ bass than anything more befitting of our ecclesiastical surroundings but now when I see the words ‘Church Road’, I feel a different sort of excitement. It’s arguably closer to curiosity. The record label in question has an eclectic roster of bands and Voices are probably a good example of that. Or possibly a metaphor for it. My point is that both the label and the band champion heavy, challenging music. There are many who do, of course, but Voices take something of a different path to most bands.

Formed partially from the ashes of Akercocke in 2012, Voices was created as a necessary outlet for the creative minds of Peter Benjamin (guitar, piano, vocals) and David Gray (drums), both ex-Akercocke, who were joined by Dan Abela on bass and Sam Loynes on guitar and keyboards. Together they created a collective of musicians who were similarly-inspired yet equally uninhibited by extreme music’s conventions. Voices unquestionably reach into the avant-garde spaces between the extreme musical genres but somehow their songs tend to be memorable and immediate in a way that seems anathema to the inherent implications of being ‘avant-garde’. At a quick rundown, this record includes black metal, gothic rock, alt-rock, electro, crooning, indie and many things in between that are yet to have a name. But the element that creates this bizarre level of immediacy and familiarity in amongst all these constituent parts is an almost pop-leaning sensibility to songwriting, believe it or not. It sounds completely absurd and contradictory given what I’ve just said, but it is true. Listen to “Beckoning Shadows” and you’ll find occasionally sparse instrumentation, black metal vocals, swelling builds, a singalong chorus, a guitar/piano duel…yet you you will find yourself foot-tapping along to it in the first or second listen. “Methods of Madness” similarly carries the tropes of something entirely sinister and nihilistic but ends up being nothing short of a big rock anthem and “Lilacs In-between” feels like it’s been pulled from a 00’s indie goth club night initially, before descending into something very dark and then the melodic vocal and piano part brings it right back to danceable territory.

But I’m not entirely convinced by everything that happens on this record. That is probably inevitable when any record tips the scales at more than an hour long (68 minutes in this case), so the trick here is to make sure the record as a whole feels like a cohesive package. And for the most part, it does. In spite of the band’s ADHD approach to songwriting. But there are moments that do feel jarring (the punk jangle and pacing of “Whispers” immediately after the electro-throb of “My Sick Mind” for example) or extraneous (the first 2:20 of “Absent Equilibrium” feels like a bit of a non-event). Also, some of the electronics do feel a little bolted-on, though that is by no means true for the majority of the record. Also, when they’re used as a focal point, some of the piano passages are genuinely beautiful and are emphasised well with some orchestral backing. The intro into “The Widower” is one of the points in the record I’m thinking of and the song as a whole is something of a highlight for me. It showcases most of what Voices do incredibly well and pulls it together into a nice little 5-minute package.

What I can say with absolute certainty though, is that this record is distinguishable from all other releases this year from the first track to the last. Vicious, groove-laden, endlessly listenable, fragile, bizarre and beguiling. I could understand some people not being able to get on board with the sound but trying to objectively say this was anything other than an extraordinary display of creativity and songwriting unencumbered by genre or tradition would be a lot harder to stomach.