Words: Alasdair Belling

There seems to be an obsession within the Metal world now of the dark, grim, indeed almost vulgar sounds that can be achieved in the Black Metal vein. Add in some Progressive elements, namely in the song-writing and arrangements, and you have songs that take one hell of a long time to click, but you know deep down inside are capturing a darkness that’s hard to conjure up in the musical realm. That is exactly the atmosphere that ‘Vol. 2’ by Aussie Blackened Progressive collective Project 34 creates.

The brainchild of Sydney musicians Christopher and Renee Lahoud, who employ a variety of other musicians to add to the picture over the course of the LP, there is nothing easy to digest here. From the opening slime of Breathe, things are atmospheric, heavy and ultimately filled with dread, a feeling that truly arrives in full force with the confronting Distant Eradication.

Like any expansive work, there are moments of beauty and mystery scattered throughout ‘Vol. 2.’ Judgement evokes tones and melodies not dissimilar to that of cuts from Tool’s Lateralus LP, and Mortality, while beginning in the throes of anguished groans and shrieks, dies away to a sparse, dream-like reflective state, offering a moment of reprieve from the bleak storm that makes up a majority of these soundscapes.

The biggest issue listeners will have with this LP is the ‘ill’ sounding vocals that sit at the front of every song. While not being a bad vocal performance, there is a strong sense of avant-garde spirit in the vocal delivery, one that often switches from the howls, to groaning, chanting and deathly gurgling. More than a ‘vocal’ performance, the lyrics serve as extra atmosphere to the songs, much the same as some vocal lines found in Sigur Ros and other choice post-rock cuts. All this is to say, once the listener can digest this, the songs themselves are opened, with the beautiful arrangements Last Breath and Birth not being tarnished by a misinterpretation of what this band is trying to achieve.    

While maybe not producing a collection of songs that are easy to consume, ‘Vol. 2’ rather provides listeners with a one-hour exploration of atmosphere, soundscape and abandonment, with the vulnerable depths of the human experience somehow expressed through relentless and unashamed Blackened Death Metal. Nothing repeats itself here. If anything, the record feels like a complete symphony that arrives at various dark motifs throughout the journey. Deceased begins by unveiling some of the heaviest musical passages of the record, before retreating into a Celtic-like mournful march, a combination that slots in perfectly with the psychedelic, post-Industrial soundscapes explored on Anguish. It’s all over the place, but it fits beautifully together.

‘Vol.2’ is certainly one of the most unique and challenging records to come out of the Australian Metal scene this year, and one feels that if you’re not up for the challenge, then Project 34 would rather you sit this one out. The name of the game here is to be pushed beyond the artificial ‘niceness’ of the world and face reality. If this is what reality sounds like, then life sucks… but there’s some beauty in it that we can take solace in.

Support the dark arts and stream Vol. 2 here!