Published May 07, 2019Warforged caused quite a stir with the release of their EP, Essence of the Land, in 2014, an evocative record that introduced their unique blend of black metal and prog. On their debut full-length, I: Voice, the band take everything that was great about their EP and turn it up to 11.
It's an inescapably haunting record, often as terrifying as it is beautiful. The band let you know what it's all about with the opening track, "We've Been Here Before." Rising feedback gives way to a single, pulsing piano note, which builds to a chord filled with longing before being abruptly drowned out.
In fact, a lot of things happen abruptly on this album, like the acoustic interludes that occur frequently within a song. Dynamics aren't the only thing toyed with, however. Tracks also have a tendency to end abruptly, often without resolving. It feels like looking back on a hazy memory, a dreamlike, or more often nightmarish, quality fitting for a record about being lost in a ghostly forest.
Musically, this album is a crucible of sound. There is a perceptible reverence for Opeth, not only in the prevalence of acoustic sections, but also in the narrative quality of the songwriting. Following the twists and turns on a song like "Willow" or "Voice" feels like a surreal journey. The band really prog out with their hog out on "Old Friend," turning into jazz fusion halfway through.
Amidst all this eclecticism is some formidable death metal. Guitarists Jace Kiburz and Max Damske lay down leaping Cynic-esque fretwork, most notably on face-melter "The Color of My Memory," while songs like "Beneath the Forest Floor" and "Eat Them While They Sleep" bring the heavy, with punishing chugs in the style of Decapitated. The black metal influence is most apparent in the blast beats and Adrian Perez's inhuman shrieks. He sounds like the spite of every vengeful spirit channelled through Abbath Doom Occulta.
Warforged have done something special with their debut. They incorporate a wide range of influences in a way that is utterly unique. The result is a record that not only stands as a testament to their musicianship, but something with a life all its own, a labyrinthine album evoking wonder, anguish and delirium. It's as pleasing for your heart as it is your head. (Artisan Era)