Body Void’s bone-crushing doom examines society, queer identity on ‘I Live Inside a Burning House’

We can’t hope to understand everyone’s problems. We certainly can (and should) try, but we do not live in others’ skin. There are myriad struggles and problems within our modern society, so trying to have an open mind and heart toward those who live different lives than we do is paramount. Cutting off hatred at the pass also becomes something for which we need to be vigilant and active. Even if that means ridicule from people who think that’s “not metal.” Which is ridiculous.

That’s an issue that’s all over “I Live Inside a Burning House,” the monumental second record from sludgy doom machine Body Void, based in San Francisco. This five-track, 68-minute mauler and follow-up to 2016 debut “Ruins,” examines queer identity, issues with mental illness, and the chasm between material and immaterial worlds, giving you plenty of heady content in which to sink your teeth. Guitarist/vocalist Will Ryan came out as queer, non-binary a couple years ago, and the band became a heavy supporter and representative to the LQBTQI* community. Oddly, as far as we’ve come with this issue publicly (and we still have ways to go), metal’s voice hasn’t been quite as loud until pretty recently. So, having Body Void out there—the band is rounded out by bassist Parker Ryan and drummer Edward Holgerson—gives a heavier, more explosive presence to these issues. I can imagine anyone out there who identifies the same way will find much to grasp with this monster of a record, as they may see a lot of what they face spread out here. Even if you don’t, there’s a lot of absorb to give better understanding, as well as a serving of doom that will blow down your doors.

“Intro/A Burning House” gets us started with synth stabs, the doom waves unfurling, and an atmospheric touch that spills into 18:18-long “Haunted” that rings out and takes its time setting up a blistering setting. Ryan’s harsh shrieks, one of the strongest elements of the band’s sound, begins making its mark, as the track delivers slow anguish and morbidity. “The pain is a sign of the world inside,” Ryan wails, as feedback sparks and spits, and the suffering becomes almost too much to take. The track calms for a spell before things ignite, the pace picks up steam, and everything falls into utter chaos. “Trauma Creature” is a 16:17 mammoth that is calculated and massive. Feedback and feral calls mix, while the doom quivers and makes the room shake. Ryan’s strangled cries lay waste, as the pace simmers and sends off steam. Suddenly, we gain speed, as the song takes on a hardcore-like vibe, as Ryan’s tortured screams spray blood. Guitars cascade as souls are crushed, while this all builds to a cathartic finish that ends in devastation.

“Phantom Limb” is one of the “shorter” songs at 8:55, and we start with riffs blistering and nasty vocals. Gritty guitars make their way through the soot, while the savage destruction takes its toll on everything. The guitars moan in agony, while mournful, fiery expressions scorch, and the playing keeps spilling its guts. “My voice will carry you!” Ryan cries, as the drums explode with power, and the whole things fades into the embers. Closer “Given” is the longest cut, a 21:30 challenger that lightly chugs at first before noise and Ryan’s tumultuous shrieks enter the fray. The playing is ultra-slow, as it smears itself over everything, with the drums bashing, and the song bathing in hell. Start-stop riffing lands punches, while the band goes thrashy while rolling in grime. The vocals scrape, and Ryan’s shrieks send reverberations, though some clean calls also make their way into the chemistry. As the song reaches its back end, the pace changes, the band mashes violently, and the noise bleeds away, leaving a heavy red trail behind it.

Body Void’s music is powerful both musically and philosophically, and “I Live Inside a Burning House” is an eye-opening and ear-destroying release that’s one of the better records to rip out of doom’s circles this year. The album is sudden, punishing, even terrifying, and it likely will take a few visits to truly grasp everything. Luckily, it’s such a devastating effort, you won’t mind returning over and over again.

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