Boomkat Product Review:
Mayhem and Sunn O))) "extreme metal vocalist" Attila Csihar evokes ancient rituals on this startling long-form headtrip recorded in Baalbek, the home of Lebanon's immense Roman monoliths. Combining throat singing techniques with field recordings and xenharmonic wind sounds, Csihar transports us to a world of forgotten ancient technologies and mysticism.
Csihar developed the Void Ov Voices project almost two decades ago as an outlet for his interest in ritual forms. His idea was to develop ephemeral, site-specific performances that would draw their power from the spaces themselves, feeding into history. His fascination with ancient ruins led him to Baalbek, a city in Lebanon formerly known as Heliopolis that's home to some of the world's most impressive Roman ruins. The temple complex, made of gigantic slabs of white granite and rough white marble, contains the world's largest monoliths, a fact that had preoccupied Csihar for years. In 2008 he visited the site to attempt to channel some of that history and energy into his music. He was struck by the ruins of the Jupiter Temple, now just a plateau of stones, and wondered if the once enormous structure might have been the inspiration for the Biblical Tower of Babel. The thought buzzed around his head as he perched on top of the Stone of the South, the world's biggest worked monolith at 1242 tons, and performed his sonic incantation.
In 2012, he returned to Lebanon to recapture this feeling and record the moment. In the time since his original visit, he'd discovered that the Hungarian artist Csontváry Kosztka Tivadar had been inspired by the same ancient location - his 1907 painting "Sacrifical Stone" adorns the cover of the album, "I could not visualise my music better than Csontváry on this beautiful painting," he explains in the album's press release.
'Sacrificial Stone' is an unearthly, bright reimagining of the Baalbek ruins situated somewhere between fantasy and reality; Csihar attempts to harness the same visual, breathing wavering tones and bends his voice into shapes that straddle speech, animalistic growling and singing. His two side-long treatments are revelatory - the Hungarian vocalist has been developing the style since the mid-1980s and at this stage has created a vocal technique that pretty much stands alone, despite obvious infleuence from various indigenous singing styles, sacred methodologies and avant-garde practices.
There's little trace of his work in metal bands on display here, but the crushing power of the genre still inhabits the outer edges of his compositions. His voice froths and oscillates against looping drones and Sunn O)))-adjacent rattles, but it's not strictly drone music, it's the distant reverberation of ancient greek devotional poetry, of Roman pagan rituals, of early plainsong and Byzantine chants, of sufi music and of Buddhist forms. Whether you're into sacred music, subwoofer-ready drone, or Mike Patton's acrobatic vocal experiments, it's a deeply absorbing listen.