My friend Yoshi takes a drag on his smoke and searches the night sky for words. It’s a few days since he saw STORM OF VOID slay the crowd at a packed Tokyo venue, and he is convinced the band is going to be huge. “The sound from the speakers was like an iron wind. From one guitar. It felt like 10 guitars. It actually hurt.”
STORM OF VOID’s first full-length War Inside You, out on Hostess Entertainment September 20, manages to capture the weaponized tone described above on an album celebrating everything that made late ’90s metal so great while still sounding fresh and unique.
Each of these tracks burst with the euphoria of illicit teenage keg parties soundtracked by Pantera, Prong, Tool, Napalm Death, White Zombie, Neurosis, Sepultura, and Deftones; yet they could not exist at any other time than now. This album doesn’t just remind you of good times gone, it makes you feel they’ve come again—all you have to do is press play and turn up the volume as far as it will go.
STORM OF VOID has bubbled away for years as a low-profile side-project of guitarist George Bodman and drummer Dairoku Seki, the seeds planted when acquisitions of certain instruments were deemed “too heavy” by their respective main bands (for Bodman, the eclectic punk orchestra Turtle Island, and for Seki, post-hardcore outfit Envy).
“We actually started off as a duo in the beginning,” says Bodman. “It was me having an eight-string guitar and bunch of loud vintage Sunn amps that I couldn’t use for my other band, and my drummer finally got his massive ‘Bonzo’ kit, which didn’t fit with his band, and we decided to go to a studio together just to blast our dream gear.
“Instead of just blasting it out to make some noise, I brought couple of riffs I’d been working on so we could jam and maybe turn it into something, which it eventually became Ice Lung [track eight on the album], and from that moment, we were a band.”
The years invested into the album’s creation, as the pair maneuvered around work, music, and family commitments, has resulted in songs so tight you can’t drive a chisel between the guitar, drums, and bass. How long did this record take to make, and what black magic did the band summon to get the sound so punchy?
“It’s been four years since we released our first EP,” Bodman explains. “We recorded a few tracks right after the EP, and that could’ve been our second EP, but we decided to make a full-length instead. So we scrapped that and started writing more tracks.
“Then my man Colin Suzuki, our recording engineer and co-producer, had to move from Tokyo to Kansas, and he was crucial to us. It took us a while to get the tracks ready, but the biggest reason was that we waited for Colin to come back.
I know a lot of great engineers, but it won’t be the same kind of magic you can create with your homeboy. You want a solid team to make an album.
“Colin is a great engineer and a great friend of mine. I know a lot of great engineers, but it won’t be the same kind of magic you can create with your homeboy.
“You want a solid team to make an album. A solid team that does a quality job, and at the same time, one that is as passionate as you are that you can be honest with. You have to choose people you can trust and be honest with. To me, that’s the secret to making a good album.
“Every songwriter knows how the song is supposed to sound, but to achieve that isn’t easy. I’m lucky to have a team of recording engineer, mastering engineer, drum tech, and guitar tech that’s very skilled and passionate and supportive of what I do.”
I suggest to Bodman that buying his dream gear and playing the kind of music he loved growing up offers a vicariously nostalgic experience for the listener: you can’t help sharing the joy the band is feeling as they hurl thunderbolt riffs around the studio.
“I think you nailed it! I grew up in the ‘90s listening to all kinds of heavy indie-underground stuff, and played in multiple bands since I was 15 years old, toured around Japan and overseas too. Now I have a wife and two kids, work [as an interpreter], but still try to create something different, unique, and heavy. That’s all purely because I love playing the guitar and love to play in a band. It’s not an easy balance to maintain your job and your relationship with the family and to keep your band active all at the same time… but I got one life to live and I can’t waste it!”
I do try my best to have some level of balance to keep us satisfying and interesting till the end of the track…
For a period of time during the band’s infancy and during the recording of War Inside You, STORM OF VOID featured contributions from a bassist, but Bodman says the band was always intended to function as a two-piece.
“I actually kindly asked him to leave the band after he recorded his part, and I re-recorded all the bass tracks myself. Sure, there were technical reasons and so on behind it, but it’s more about my ego, and taking responsibility.
“There are a few bass-driven tunes on the album, and matter of fact, we did think of having a guest bassist for the release tour—and we might in the future—but we started working on recreating these tunes as ‘duo-versions’ and realized there was so much freedom and creativity you can put into it, as well as being more refreshing and fun at the same time.
“Personally, I am not interested in playing live exactly the same as on the album. I perform live because I want to throw that energy out of my body and blast that electrical magic from my amps and the PA system, and hopefully feel an energy back from the audience. That’s all that I care about.”
With apologies for making the comparison (apparently necessary now to communicate the intended compliment, for reasons known only to edgy post-everything listeners), I suggest that the polyrhythmic beats and the fluid time-signature changes recall Tool, in that STORM OF VOID is also able to balance the progressive and the musical without apparent effort.
I asked Barney because of his ultra-savage voice, but his lyrics are very intelligent and unique…
“Yeah, I think Tool is a great example when it comes to the balance of songwriting. I know we are nowhere near them, but yes, I do try my best to have some level of balance to keep us satisfying and interesting till the end of the track.”
The other aspect of this record is notable vocal contributions from Napalm Death’s Mark “Barney” Greenway and Jawbox‘s J. Robbins to the menacing Bow And Scrape and the album’s title track, respectively. Why did Bodman feel their styles would be a good fit for STORM OF VOID, beyond personal friendship?
“Yes, Barney and J. Robbins are both my friends, and I was always looking for a chance to make music with them. I asked Barney, obviously, because of his ultra-savage voice, but his lyrics are very intelligent and unique, which I really admire him for. I can’t think of anybody that has that balance of savageness and intelligence at the same time.
“I have massive trust in J. He may never tune down all the way like I do, but I had no doubt he can sing on any heavy riffs and the quiet parts as well. And like I said for Barney, J. is also a very intelligent lyricist as well. And I won’t hesitate to say, but I don’t think anyone would’ve thought to have these two legends sing on the same album, which it makes it exciting and special.”
War Inside You doesn’t land squarely in any clearly defined genre of metal…
Beyond the blending of familiar and unique, War Inside You is underscored by the variety of styles it shifts between, sometimes within the space of a song. That wicked-edged guitar rides on floods of sub-bass, Seki’s huge kick drum punching holes through the bottom end, but the mix keeps everything clearly defined.
Perhaps the only problem with War Inside You is that it risks falling through the cracks because it doesn’t land squarely in any clearly defined genre of metal. Which makes it tricky to land and overseas deal. However, with a release of this quality under their belts, it’s only a matter of time before overseas audiences hear a lot more from STORM OF VOID.