Void Paradigm is a part of the ascendant French black metal scene, although in sound they have as much in common with underground California (e.g. Kallathon) as they do with their fellow French. I always get a kick out of made-up genre names, because 99% of the time they don’t make any sense. These guys refer to their style as “hypnotic dodecatonic black metal.” That sounds ridiculous at first blush, but there could be something to it. Picking it apart might let me explain their music to you.
It is certainly hypnotic. The bass creates fuzzy waves that rise and fall like a dinghy on the river Styx. The drums rarely blast, preferring instead a driving but more reasonable tempo with modest fills. Together, they form a rhythmic backdrop to the unusual, repeating guitar riffs. They are not tremolo-picked, instead going through bizarre melodies repeated ad nauseam. Which is where the “dodecatonic” part comes in. I’m no music major, but I get the distinct impression the guitar riffs are dodecaphonic, i.e., they play chromatic melodies using Arnold Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique. I’m already a fan of Schoenberg, so a black metal band using his compositional methods is an easy sell for me.
The first two tracks are by far the best examples. They are high-speed, and that is where the band is most impressive. And catchy, too, as the rasp-growled vocals go into hooks like “Silence! Silence!” You have to hear it to understand why that’s as memorable as it is. They slow things down after that, going into some functionally ambient parts and doomy ones, and they noticeably relax their adherence to Schoenberg’s rules. The vocals don’t relent until the completely pointless ten minute closing track, which I will never listen to again.
At their best, Void Paradigm play some absolutely entrancing black metal that’s experimental and catchy. The excellence drops off sharply to “pretty goodness” when they drop the rigid compositional rules laid down 80 years ago by an Austrian “deviant” (the Nazi party’s word, not mine). If they can manage to compose an entire record of music like the first two cuts here, then they have a striking future in front of them.
The Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars