All songs written and recorded by Matt Schmitz at House of the Rising Sun Studio, Hartford, WI. Mixed and mastered by Matt Schmitz. Released on Monday 20 March 2023.
For fans of Paradise Lost, Cathedral, Anathema.
Illuminated Void began as a dark ambient project fronted by Matt Schmitz (of stoner doom band Sleestak) and released their first self-titled album in late 2021, quickly followed by a second album in early 2022 entitled The Vesper Serpent. These albums incorporated haunting dream-like soundscapes with subtle hints of psychedelia and neoclassical traits and thematically revolved around alchemy, esotericism, and occultism.
By mid-2022 the band was writing material for a third album as well as undergoing a massive shift in the overall creative direction—one that embraced the heavier side of music and paying homage not only to the influences of earlier works by bands such as Cathedral, Paradise Lost, and Anathema, but also the sounds of Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, and others. This melting pot of sounds allowed the forging of a new and unique style that still shone with the original dark ambient textures of the first two albums and yet elevated Illuminated Void to new sonic possibilities. The result is Veriditas—an esoteric listening experience wrought with dynamic twists and turns that invites the listener to go within themselves and their subconscious mind.
The opening track, “The maze of sleep” (track 1), which could be representative of the album as a whole, is a fusion of genres that blend and flow into one another seamlessly: early Paradise Lost-like gothic doom, death metal, a “Planet Caravan” Black Sabbath-like passage of floaty guitars, shoegaze, folk metal-like acoustic. There is something here for everyone.
“Virgo Lucifera” (track 2) opens as an modest, bouncing riff with the vocals hidden a little in the mix, before morphing into a slower paced, plodding riff featuring a wandering guitar solo, like water gently cascading down a mountain, searching for the best path.
“The narrow gate” (track 3) fades up, the song already in full flow. The party has already started, the narrow gate obviously prevented us from getting there sooner. The riff trundles along at a steady pace, with clouds of gruff, death metal vocals a little lost in the background. The song quickens to an urgency before laying right back into a shoegaze-style psychedelia.
“God is an all-consuming fire” (track 4) changes direction completely opening (and continuing) with a strummed acoustic guitar and luscious baritone voice, á la Ancient VVisdom. The song doesn’t deviate from its opening path before being consumed by the sounds of wind and fire.
“Veriditas / equinox” (track 5) closes the album as majestically and in as varied a way as the opening track … and remarkably with a song that is exactly the same length: 16′ 33″. Crushing, plodding, doom-like riffs eventually give way to an heavenly soundscape that burns away to a delicate, picked acoustic tune and folk-style vocals.
While it took me a couple of listens of this album to get into it, it was a journey worth taking. I do love those albums that morph between dark and light, heavy and delicate. That there are melodic head nods to early Paradise Lost, Black Sabbath and Ancient VVisdom, as well as straying into meadows of Jesu-like shoegaze make it all the better.
Review score: 85%
MDPR contacted me inviting me to preview Illuminated Void’s album, thank you. I have no connections to either MDPR or Illuminated Void. I’m not being paid to review this. But I did get a free digital copy of the album to review which is pretty cool. Many thanks to Zach from MDPR, and to Illuminated Void for continuing to create fresh, exciting GENRE.