Having established a penchant for varied moods on 2016’s There Is Nothing, Void King has expanded even further on their second full-length album Barren Dominion. “A Lucid Omega” sets an unusual precedent right off the bat, bordering on alt-prog territory with abstract dynamics, building bass/guitar interplay, and vocals unleashing their inner Maynard. These influences pop up later on “Learning from the Ashes,” where they’re arguably used to even greater effect thanks to the more melancholic tone.
There’s still plenty of stoner doom left to go around but even these songs seem more nuanced than before. While the awesomely titled “Temples Made of Bone” feels like a holdover from the debut with its Saint Vitus trills and muddy chugs, songs like “Burnt at Both Ends” and “Crippled Chameleon” showcase more relaxed tempos with drawn-out riffing styles to match. This isn’t a soft album by any means, but the mood indicates a mix of brightness and somber reflection. They showed signs of this shift on their 2017 split with labelmates Stone in Egypt, so it’s nice to see further development.
And with that, the musicianship stays cohesive throughout. While the guitars aren’t quite as bottom-heavy this time around, the endless layers of fuzz work to preserve an esoteric aura. The rhythm section also provides plenty of weight as the bass stands on equal footing with its own share of fuzz and the drums make for a steady anchor. The vocal performance has also broadened considerably, still grounded in a burly yarl yet offering a more flexible range, subtle restraint, and harsh backing as songs demand.
Overall, Void King not only expands their sonic palette but also offers a certain emotional maturity on Barren Dominion. The band’s delivery remains driven by domineering distortion and meditative attitudes, but such musings are more introspectively driven. The progressive tinges also suggest broader influences coming into play that I can imagine appealing to listeners beyond the stoner doom circles. This is definitely a grower compared to There is Nothing, but it manages to find a different way to hit just as hard.
“Burnt at Both Ends”
“Temples Made of Bone”
“Learning from the Ashes”