That’s a hell of a title, isn’t it? Sounds like the kind of thing a Swedish symphonic metal band would call their latest, and to my mind it doesn’t seem to fit too comfortably with the rustic image of a bull accompanying it on the cover of Blitzen Trapper’s new album. As it transpires, though, the cover art ultimately serves as a good microcosm of the music contained therein.
You see, the album gets its title from its first track. Like that title, ‘Destroyer of the Void’ the song has a real sense of bombast and the epic about it. Eric Earley is no Freddie Mercury, but I’ll be damned if the song doesn’t betray a real mid-1970s classic period Queen influence. It’s been said before that Trapper display their influences loud and proud, and the evidence for that in this case is substantial, not least an ambitious, lengthy, multi-part structure and some uncannily Brian May-esque guitar passages. The lyrics and falsetto even tangentially remind me of May-penned classic ’39′ during the final third. It completely fits the title, and it’s a fantastic song, but in very few respects does it resemble what is to follow – happily, one of those few aspects is the level of quality.
The prevailing wind across the remaining tracks is one of comparitive restraint, less logically connected to a lofty title like Destroyer of the Void but much more so to the record’s earthy cover art. Acoustic instruments generally take precedence, and there’s a fair crop of mournful, elegiac songs embellished with piano and strings. The best of these is perhaps ‘Heaven and Earth’, forged mostly from those two instruments and grippingly explaining that “over the Western world / shadows fall”. It’s alternately dark and hopeful, and among the record’s most successful endeavours. Another highlight, the galloping ‘Laughing Lover’, is markedly more upbeat and features much more electric guitar than much of the album.
Elsewhere, there’s a return of Blitzen Trapper’s strong narrative song tradition in the form of ‘The Man Who Would Speak True’ and ‘The Tailor’. These songs, too, reflect the wider record’s alternating pessimism and hope. The former song is bleak, sparse and nigh-apocalyptic, proclaiming that “there ain’t no crops but the ones you’ve sown”. Conversely, ‘The Tailor’ hangs bells, organ, and backing vocals from its cyclic guitar template, its lyrics telling a fantastical story of constant reinvention in defiance of adversity.
Beyond these key touchstones the other songs lack quite the same spark, but are all effective and more than competently put together. Earley’s duet with Alela Diane on ‘The Tree’ is mildly underwhelming, arguably not making the most of its guest performer, and songs like ‘Dragon’s Song’ and ‘Evening Star’ mostly slide by comfortably, being easy on the ear but not as able as, say, ‘Heaven and Earth’ to make the listener sit up and take notice. In sum, Destroyer of the Void is an impressive and varied listen, which should go a long way to satisfying fans of the band’s previous albums and many others besides.