Please forgive our tardiness to the party, but we’re here now. Thankfully since its release in April, Earthen Tomb, the debut album from RVA-based doom squad The Astral Void has only increased in potency. Running six tracks long in 46 minutes, Earthen Tomb represents some of the very best doom coming out right now.
With an incredibly capable vocalist, an abundance of slow and magical riffs, painfully beautiful guitar leads, excellent use of synth-driven psychedelia, and a clear understanding of doling out the doom most effectively, The Astral Void are more than ready to dominate the American scene. Consider this a heads up. Earthen Tomb rules within and without the doom genre.
According to Tom Vesuvus, their drummer, “The Astral Void formed in mid 2017 with the members that are currently in the band with the exception of Gabrielle on vocals. We had a different singer (Megan) when we first started, and the five of us met up from a Craigslist ad to start a new doom band. We shared a common appreciation for dark, heavy, gloomy music and wished to further explore the atmosphere and space that doom metal offers with guidance from Black Sabbath, Pagan Altar, Pentagram, Candlemass, Cathedral, Paradise Lost, Reverend Bizarre, The Obsessed, Saint Vitus, Warning, Windhand, Pallbearer, etc.”
Doom vocalists can sometimes make or break the band. In the case of The Astral Void we hear a perfect marriage between almighty and killer doom and flat-out perfect vocals from a flinty-voiced veritable Siren who goes by the name Gabrielle Bishop. As a singer, Gabrielle is capable, but no show off. She’s got bravado, but she usually trades it for melancholy.
According to Gabrielle herself, Coming together with [The Astral Void] guys was actually pretty serendipitous.” She continues: “I was at Wax Moon record store, and in passing, I mentioned to Andrew [ at Wax Moon] that I was interested in collaborating if he knew of anyone looking for a vocalist. He said his friend Bill’s new band had just lost their singer and we were in touch within the next week. That was sometime during January 2018. The rest is history.”
Gabrielle goes on to explain the themes behind her lyrics. “For me,” she says, “Earthen Tomb is largely inspired by dark folklore, paganism, and legends of old. Losing myself in the stories of my ancestors and being in nature is where I feel most at ease. Part of my craft is putting pen to paper, lyric to song, and finding where my words work with the band’s sounds. That is when the themes of the album came to fruition.”
The Astral Void captured their masterful doom at a studio in Virginia called The Ward. According to Tom, “Recording at The Ward was more involved than recording our demo. We had access to high end equipment and a professional sound engineer in Thomas ‘Rusty’ Scott. The recordings were done mostly live as a band in a few takes aside from vocals, guitar solos, synths, and a few guitar, bass, and drum overdubs. Those were all done separately. Rusty recorded and mixed (produced) the record with us giving quite a bit of feedback about overall sound and volume levels. The mastering was done at Mammoth Sound.”
Tom goes on to say, “The album exceeded what we were expecting. When we got into a legit recording studio with someone who knew what we were trying to accomplish, it gave us the freedom to expand from what we do at practice or on stage. Adding nuances and textures made a huge impact on the sound overall. We’re stoked about how it came out!”
Tom informs us that “Ellie Gill is the artist behind the album cover.” He continues: “We were very fortunate to have her talent represent Earthen Tomb. Her creations are thematically dark and disturbing and aesthetically ethereal. We liken that to how we view this album as a whole. We gave her direction with the title mostly, but she is a total professional and we trusted her intuition to take it from there. To say we were pleased with the final piece is an understatement! (FYI: Ellie is currently tattooing in Richmond, VA at Unkindness Art and is one of the featured artists involved in the Ekphrastic Beasts Collective).”
Because they released their album during the pandemic, they missed out on playing a record release show. But Tom says, “Once shows are a possibility, we’ ll have a record release. Our next big upcoming gig is The Maryland Doomfest which we’re currently scheduled to play October 29th. That may be a possibility for our record release, but it’s difficult to plan anything right now.”
Fellow tokers may appreciate knowing that bassist Bill Carter is a “a huge fan of the indica heavy strains overall.” He goes on to say: “They totally relax my anxiety and keep my mind focused. In the studio I was smoking Purple Kush!”
“Some of us smoke quite a bit, and others not much or at all,” says Bill. “We all have a healthy appreciation for altered states of consciousness whether it be through music, ritual, cannabis, psychedelics, booze, exercise, meditation, etc.”
Okay, now’s the time for label bosses to listen up. The Astral Void are currently free agents and they’re looking for someone to release this powerful debut on vinyl. Tom calls it the band’s “number one priority—as the album deserves to be pressed in a physical format.” He continues: “We specifically asked to record it in a way that would sound better on vinyl. Once we’re able to play shows again, we’ll also have CDs available. If there’s demand for CDs or tapes prior to live dates we’ll make that happen so definitely let us know!”
In conclusion, they add: “Thanks for the interview and for the album stream. We love Decibel!”
The feeling is mutual.