Hozomeen - The Void (Album Review)


Newcastle upon Tyne musician Graham Thompson has been an active member of his local music scene for the past 25 years. Cutting his teeth with the groups OZO, Jinn, and Gullich, Thompson is an experienced artist who knows the rules well enough to break them into something idiosyncratic. Thompson's most recent musical project, Hozomeen, sees the multi-instrumentalist take care of all the business, from complex drum patters and incendiary guitars to darkly alluring bass and impassioned vocals. This singular approach has lent the debut Hozomeen album, The Void, elements of cohesion, uniformity, and a level of personability that endears the listener into its world, no matter how aggressive or pensive it may be.  

The obscurity of the opening track, "Involuntary Man's Laughter", warns the audience from the outset that they're not in for anything too breezy. Thompson is not an artist to settle on the easily accessible, and when the first "real" song, "Call The Hogs", starts with a chugging riff coloured with feedback and then breaks into heavier-than-stone hard rock with vocals obscured by distortion, you know you're in for an intense trip. Although the distortion renders the lyrics indecipherable, the intention is clear; Thomspon is bemused; he stares straight into the void and doesn't like what he sees. The emptiness of life has galvanized him into action, putting into motion this heavy music marked by creatively rhythmic transitions between bars. At over eight minutes, the awesome riffage of "Lack" dances between Smashing Pumpkinsesque wails and quieter ruminations, all while Thompson buries his voice under six feet of dissonance. 

Though just recently released, The Void was recorded from June 2021 to February 2022 at the curiously name Sound Schitty Mobile Recording Studio in Thompson's native Newcastle. Thompson layers his tracks from the drums up, merging their militaristic thuds with face-melting guitar riffs, feedback galore, piano, melodica, and trumpet contributions from James Leonard Hewitson. And while the instrumentation and their sounds may be variegated, Thompson's inability to stick to one approach makes The Void so exciting. For example, on "Coursing", a repeated riff cements itself into the psyche by sheer force before strange guitars lines add a level of irreverence not usually associated with intellectually-leaning post-rock. 

The track "One Kilohertz" starts with slack guitar strings which seem to be almost falling off, while a ride cymbal is sporadically hit, vocals sound like they are being sung from the trenches of a battlefield, and tempos and intensity change with an unpredictability that keeps the listener on their toes. Two of the weaker spots on the album come consecutively; despite some atmospheric guitar work, "Balk" feels aimless, especially when it stumbles upon minor keys; not even the unruly trumpet solo can salvage this track from being innocuous. Meanwhile, "Cleansing Breaths" passes the originality test with flying colours, but is given over to self-indulgent noodling; its finger piano and highly-effected drum sound culminate in a mish-mash of moods. These slight missteps are redeemed with the closing track, "Manifestation of Grief", which is uncompromising in its intensity, darkness, and out-there execution. Consisting mainly of reverberated feedback (akin to Lou Reed's benchmark feedback album Metal Music Machine), Thompson adds spoken word samples and ambient textures to great effect. It's a fantastic way to end an album driven by rhythm, like the calm after a storm.

The Void by Hozomeen is an anything-goes concoction of straight rock decorated with more experimental intentions and with song structures that appear to abide by their own laws of physics.