EP review: Voices – An Audience Of Mannequins

London blackened-death progsters Voices celebrate a decade of destruction with unsettling three-track EP, An Audience Of Mannequins.

EP review: Voices – An Audience Of Mannequins
Sam Law

For older metalheads, it’s staggering to realise that Voices are celebrating 10 years in 2021. Coming off the – as it transpired, temporary – dissolution of London extremists Akercocke, drummer David Gray along with multi-instrumentalists Sam Loynes and Peter Benjamin, and bassist Dan Abela, sought to continue a devilish mission, taking their blackened avant-garde further down unexplored avenues of evil. Announcing their new band’s existence on Halloween 2011, and releasing three albums in the interim, they’ve become one of the most reliably interesting, albeit underrated, names in the Brit-metal underground.

Although three-track EP An Audience With Mannequins isn’t exactly likely to see them crack the mainstream any time soon – admirably, all proceeds will be going to Dementia UK – its hellish/haunting thirteen-and-a-bit-minutes make for a timely reminder that these Voices need to be heard.

The opening title-track picks up with more aggro than where 2018’s aptly-titled Frightened left off, lunging for the jugular with pickaxe riffs, thunderous percussion and guttural ravenousness. But then it shapeshifts through passages of blasting intensity and others of epic, almost death-doom inflected high drama, while creeping melancholic undertones (‘The curse of the mannequins, I / I love that you don’t exist’) make it an unsettling listen.

In comparison, Hostile Confrontations feels positively skeletal. With Peter delivering a lilting lament (‘The hostile confrontations / The endless ebb-and-flow’) against a sparse backdrop of phantasmal synths, clicking percussion and a flurry of mournfully pressed keys at the close, it’s a beautiful piece, somewhere between the murder balladry of Nick Cave and the dark ambiance of Nine Inch Nails at their most stripped-back.

A Comfortable Distance is the most deliciously off-kilter of the bunch, mind. Evocative of latter-day Opeth, glowing shafts of light scatter the darkness and doubt, with more hopeful piano, rich strings and gloriously echoing chords weaving together to finish with a sense of genre-defying gratitude and tentative hope. Here's to seeing what the next decade brings.

Verdict: 3/5

For fans of: Akercocke, Anathema, Opeth

An Audience Of Mannequins is out now via Church Road.

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