Posted inCultures

From djent to jazz – a review of The Last Three Seconds by Voronoi

I remember vividly the last music festival I attended: ArcTanGent, August 2019. As the name suggests, this event brings together a collection of bands who play in bizarre time signatures and utilise unorthodox syncopation, to the point where more concerts consist of people desperately trying to figure out how to head-bang correctly rather than moshing or dancing. One such band was the Leeds group Voronoi, whose sound was immediately striking. Almost the only band with no electric guitars on stage, Voronoi had a unique take on prog and metal I had yet to hear from any other act at the festival. At the time, I would have described their music as ‘piano djent’, but in retrospect I do not think this does them justice.

In their new album The Last Three Seconds, Voronoi continue to deliver their striking signature sound with all their best strengths, whilst somehow building on them to create something fresh. The 49-minute LP is jam-packed full of all sorts of fusions of various kinds of technical music. Their influences are far and wide, as mentioned in an interview with Bring the Noise, in which they highlighted the balancing act they tackle when “introducing a much less capable Thelonious Monk to a less hectic Dillinger Escape Plan”.

Jazz is not a foreign concept to a lot of progressive metal musicians. Indeed, the unique soloing of jazz guitarist Allan Holdsworth had a profound impact on Fredrik Thordendal of Meshuggah, and Animals As Leaders use extended-range guitars to create colourful chord voicings. Voronoi, on the other hand, have taken this one step further by writing an album which contains as much prog metal as it does straight jazz. Some songs on this LP could easily fit in well with other great jazz and fusion records of decades past.

I highly doubt this is the sole intention of the band, however. Voronoi seem far more concerned with maths, science, and science fiction than being considered part of any singular genre. The name itself is derived from a mathematical diagram, and many songs on this record also hint at these influences: the track “Gamma Signals” was inspired by the initial misinterpretation of binary star radiation as extra-terrestrial communication. Other song names, such as “Interstellar Something”, “Robots as Pathos / Robots as Menace”, and “Home Could Be Lightyears Away”, all help tie in with this theme, not to mention the intentional choice of sawtooth-derived synth sounds.

Being prog-adjacent, there are some long songs on this album, with “The Nauseator” and “The Outsider and the Priest” both clocking in at around 10 minutes and remaining engaging throughout. The former opens with a dark sci-fi soundscape before launching the listener head-first into groovy jazz fusion. Then, almost seamlessly, begins the ‘piano djent’ I referred to earlier on. The track ‘progresses’, as is expected in this genre, back to jazz, to dark ambient, and concluding with heavy riffing to which I can fully imagine a rowdy audience moshing along. “The Outsider and the Priest” offers a similarly heavy outro, with jazzy sections throughout. Some of the shorter songs offer a more distinct focus: “Gamma Signals” wastes no time with its sci-fi-inspired opening and almost groove metal outro, clearly drawing from Meshuggah and related acts. Other songs such as “Interstellar Something” are even more groove-driven and could be highly danceable.

Despite their small line-up, Voronoi are highly skilled in timbre selection. The band’s meticulous selection of synthesiser sounds on this album will impress any listener; many songs use very simple synth patches, but these prove very effective in context. The closing track, “Home Could Be Lightyears Away”, uses a highly evocative lead synth to deliver a line most would have expected to be played on electric guitar. At other points, titular low octaves of the piano possess aggressive harmonics also seen on a down-tuned distorted guitar, making it even more suited to the metal riffage in some songs, and the band even opt for an upright bass for some jazzier moments. All this only contributes to the joy of the listening experience.

Overall, this is a very promising debut full-length from Voronoi. As heavy progressive music and its characteristic components increasingly make their way into the mainstream musical lexicon, I can only hope this UK band gets the attention they deserve. I would strongly recommend this album to a lot of people, but especially jazz fans looking to get into metal and vice versa. The band’s artful transitions between these genres are enough to win over anyone with apprehensions about either genre. I can only hope I get the chance to see Voronoi live again and relive my memorable first experience of them at ArcTanGent 2019.