Melbourne’s Void Of Vision haven’t made it a secret that their first album Children Of Chrome is not a favourite release of theirs. So there was bound to be some jitters going into album territory again. The short, sharp, and energetic Disturbia EP proved Void Of Vision’s stuff, and put them on the map as a no holds barred kind of collective. Stage after stage copped Void Of Vision’s energy, and the songs of Disturbia were the stunning conduit.
It’s almost daunting going into Hyperdaze, having so much affection for that EP and its four perfect attention grabbing and ‘here we fuckin are!’ tracks of strength and constant flow. But Void Of Vision have opened the door to their new chapter nonetheless, and holding on to past releases (as amazing as they are) can mean that a listener/fan loses sight of who their band are in the present moment. I wanted Hyperdaze to show me who Void Of Vision are now – two years on from Disturbia and with a subsequent wealth of experience since their formation in 2013.
Before even diving into the sonic world of Hyperdaze, its artwork acts as a spokesperson; seeming to express a mind-bending reality, giving extra dimension to what is known. Checkerboarded surfaces are connected by metallic and thorned vines, with neon Hyperdaze text virtually hidden with its melting font and positioning. And what the heck do those symbols mean? A new Void of Vision logo? I take this image as a whole as presenting navigating through something that’s confusing and seems destined to harm.
Void of Vision’s vocalist Jack Bergin has explained the use of the term/title Hyperdaze as meaning “a state in which one is simply not there; it’s a detachment from reality, where I can numb myself to all my problems.” The perception of this concept perhaps being for ‘edginess points’ fades into the background when Void Of Vision have revealed that the album came about during a ‘heavy’ period of time for the band members collectively. Relationship issues and loss of loved ones influenced both the state of minds of the VOV crew and resulted into what we hear in Hyperdaze. In Bergin’s words: “Everyone had this very similar gloom about their life at the same time and it collectively helped shape the record.”
Contrasting the new album to Children Of Chrome, Bergin refers to the latter as an experiment, and the former as an experience. I wholeheartedly wanted to have that experience, so I dove straight on in to Hyperdaze, which begins with the instrumental track “Overture”.
As welcome and tone setter, “Overture” does its job well, sharing a kind of pretty yet sombre melody that’s echoing and filling of the ears and mind. Fluid and ethereal, it gradually gains strength, concern, and determination to be heard, landing in the riffage of second track, “Year Of The Rat”.
I was curious about the bass-like tones I’d heard, given the bassless band lineup of Bergin on vocals, James McKendrick on vocals and guitar, Mitch Fairlie on guitar, and George Murphy on drums. Bergin confirmed for me that bass guitar is present in all of the songs, and also synth instruments work on top of them. This is noticeable in “Year Of The Rat” as well, along with that ‘here we fuckin are’ energy that we know and love from VOV. There’s nothing withheld here and darkness of sound comes along with a grand heaviness as well as the use of scratchy sound effects. The tones from “Overture” show up here like a continuation, as do little synthy melodies. Think: Stranger Things theme.
On this second track of the album, roared vocals seem intent to get through to someone and have them realise and own up to who they are, and see how they’re causing a disconnect. McKendrick’s singing at the chorus has this ‘raining down’ kind of feeling, seeming to grieve that loss of connection. I found it heart-wrenching in a way but also beautiful.
I’ve not counted how many listens I’ve done on this, but every single one has revealed something else to me, and I’m swiftly starting to see that VOV are perhaps a band that need this attention to the detail that they’ve clearly put in here. It’s extremely dense, seeming like even my moment-to-moment approach of pausing, taking it in, and writing about it, is not enough to fully capture all that unfolds in this three and a half minutes of a song. Some things that didn’t gel at first with me began to make sense when I turned my perception toward the bigger picture.
In short “Year Of The Rat” is stunning, and gets more stunning with every listen. Erratic rhythms reflect twists and turns and the mess that runs through this person’s life. It’s like we’re watching them from afar and the numbed/muffled moments deliver that audible barrier. When the second chorus hits, I just feel sad. The context of a former friend and their badly deteriorating world is tough to ‘watch’ (hear). The ache of violins reinforce this sorrow in persisting in watching this person sink lower and lower in what they’ve created. The breakdown ending is as tight as it is fittingly dark, gloomy, and erratic; matching this mess. The ethereal tones, voices, and guitar of “Overture” return as the song fades out.
With the talk of strings and ethereal moments, “Babylon” throws a punch to perhaps ease any concerns of Hyperdaze being ‘too soft’. A punishing pace and driving riffs set the scene for this pummelling number, before finding its groove in a slower and steadier stride. The energy and fire is kept though, with a staticky quality that runs through seemingly every facet. I found it fitting to making oneself at home in the flames of hell, and a cavernous breakdown with doom-laden tones seems to reinforce that.
Bergin had described the track as an anarchist anthem, with God literally referred to as irrelevant in this futile degradation of existence. And as dark as this is, I can’t help but find it healthy to get to a place of acceptance of a worst case scenario, as opposed to cheerleading oneself to think something else and only circumventing the actual pain that remains. There’s gold buried in the blue, as Architects have rightfully said. I also can’t help but see songs like this as a full blown exploration of an idea; in sharing a sentiment while keeping some of the specifics sheltered behind the raw drama of it all. There’s an interview question in that, for sure.
“If Only” seemed more technical from the get-go, with its bouncier (for lack of a better word) effort from guitar and the song’s forward propelling energy. Skin-crawling realisations couple with electronic ripples, but the two-steppable force is thick and full regardless.
But can we talk about the chorus? This fucking beautiful thing has been in my head ever since I heard it. “Deadweight don’t fail me now” sings McKendrick, and it’s like I’ve heard this my entire life. Despite the concept of things being difficult and dire, this puts a smile on my face in amongst the heart-racing and ‘time’s running out’ vibe of a song.
With this one, I wanted to understand more intricately what was being expressed by way of the song meaning. Bergin’s voice can come across as unflinching and not necessarily emotive at times, and when the punches come hard and fast (as they do in “If Only”), it’s tough to find him underneath it all. I took the song’s sentiment as: “You think I’m useless and heartless? Think what you want about me. I’ve been loyal even though I’ve been struggling with my own stuff. But if you see me as not enough, then I might as well get dragged down completely.” The toxic weight of the connection with another seems like the final nail in the coffin that their state of mind is willing them toward already. There’s another interview question in this, for sure. I also wanted to understand the title choice of … every song on the album. No biggie.
With “If Only” and a buzzing and humming undercurrent (especially from the midway point), my thoughts go back to the album cover and how these metallic vines and their thorns seemed intent to entrap and hold one down. The suppression has Bergin lost in the noise as well as some of the instrumentation at times (but I do love those suffocated ‘thuds’ from the drums). There’s even a guitar solo here that sails off into the ether after a pensive moment of lightness. This is yet another song that has taken time to fully gel with, but once I’ve ‘got it’, I became fully in. There’s so many thoughtful elements that have gone into this which has made it a(nother) full-bodied, dynamic piece of music more than any kind of predictable metalcore blast.
The introduction of “Slave To The Name” caught me off guard with its use of voice samples as instrument, but it powers on nonetheless. It’s juxtaposed with ‘straight’ metalcore riffs, before pulses and zaps arrive and the cleanly sung verse grows into a synth melody dominated space.
My first few listens to this one had me feel like VOV were trying to do far too much at once. I found myself overwhelmed by it, such as where there’s the two vocalists as well as a backing vocal, a somewhat dissonant bass riff, drums and everything else, as well as synthy loops that pop up for attention. I wondered if this was affecting me due to this pushing and shoving theme that’s literally expressed at the chorus. The choppy ocean of sound swept me away and it felt like a fight to find a metaphorical pearl of meaning. I took a break from it, figured my job was to surrender to the creation, and I decided to do that from that point onward.
The point of “ENOUGH” in the midst of overwhelm is reflected by the point of “Slave To The Name” when it becomes nothing but a heartbeat sample and Bergin’s roar before a gutsy riff flows into another chorus. With the track coming to its close, the looping combination of all of these features is definitely “whoa” at first, but again this is something meaty (or tempeh-y) and substantial that demands an immersion more than a cursory listen.
Hyperdaze turns more Stranger Things-esque than ever with “Adrenaline”. The instrumental track pulls the heartbeat from the previous track and flows it into a slowing down before morphing into a rippling and free flowing pace. Hovering and feeling light, absent, and disconnected, if this isn’t what Bergin described as “Hyperdaze”, I don’t know what is. And in that context, I kind of like this state appearing after a song that’s dense and tough going; an escape from the pain. It also operates as a lightening of the mood for the listener, as we’re undeniably on this experience along with the VOV guys.
I’ve already feasted many times on the beauty that is “Hole In Me”, and enjoyed its vocal manipulations and all of its many facets. That twanging kind of riff is just as at home here as the stuttering rhythmic door hingey grinds at the bridge. My familiarity of this song has it feel good and strong already, and it’s a pleasure to soak up this buried zombie-like state at the verses, with riffs bouncing over them. I adore the painting of the atmosphere that the guitars do, with the looming cloud at “My prisoned mind..” and the upward zooming that occurs beforehand.
I feel like VOV really benefit from the quirks of sound, with effects and accents feeling like qualities of character that appear along the way. I believe Jon Deiley of Northlane worked with the band, and, in the aftermath of the release of Alien, it’s easy to mentally place the two bands together in terms of heading toward a more electronic/futuristic approach while keeping their established metalcore grounding.
“Kerosene Dream” is pretty blatant in theme from its title alone, but with its sound too. With turbulence and heaviness, we’re in the thick of “dark fantasy”, as Bergin had previously described the songs of Hyperdaze, with flames practically surrounding us. Staticky and gloomy, the stomping track includes a crowd chant of “Burn” which adds to the destructive hype of it all.
It’s probably as dark as it gets, seeming to promise death as a solution. I couldn’t affirm in my head whether the protagonist was setting fire to himself or a jilted lover, but leaned toward the latter. Punishing drums are jaw-dropping with this one, and having small pulses along with breakneck guitar makes for full blown experience of intensity. Contorting and bending riffs at the chorus match the all-consuming approach of destruction, and the absence of singing (aka ‘clean vocals’; that phrase that heavy music twitter abhors) offers no opportunity for peace nor any impression of hope.
On the homeward stretch now, this is where things can tend to peter off on an album. “Decay” proves that to not be the case for Hyperdaze and delivers something pretty awesome. A steady riff comes with rhythmic clicks at the introduction, before the song seeps into a zorby container of sound at the verse. I would love to be able to describe that better, but put it this way; if the cover artwork had a sound, the verses of “Decay” would be it. The sense of not being sure what is up and what is down or where surfaces begin or end is here, along with a bass tone that’s dreamy and driving. This wouldn’t be out of place on Alien, but it’s a Void Of Vision song through and through.
The deliciousness of sound comes with “Decay”‘s theme that seems to hook into high flying intoxicants, where the quest to decay comes with a quest for a speed of light rush and subsequent “bouncing off walls”. This is all my assumption anyway, and it matches how brilliantly entrancing the song is as well as coming with a raw edge of free falling. Free fall turns into alarm, when whispers become roars and sparseness builds up into a sharpened breakdown.
Second last track “Splinter” keeps the energy up also, delivering a piece of music that’s pummelling and punching. A thick and suppressed introduction breaks through into a frantic pace, with an energetic drum effort from Murphy that’s tiring to even listen to. Slick riffs run rampant through “Splinter”, with the tone reminding me a lot of The Gloom In The Corner‘s guitars on “Misanthropic”.
The theme of frustration and self-observation seems to hit a peak of desperation with “Splinter”, and this is noticeable to me with Bergin’s voice and its anguish seeming clearer than ever. There’s a weighted to-and-fro kind of vibe to this track, like a swinging between effort and failure again and again. The escalation of screams into oblivion combined with the rapid pace come across like raw hopelessness, and a running out of time and options.
For me, it’s the ‘little’ features that make this so great. Like the choice to combine two vocals on the “Isochronic environment” line, and the beeping as this already frantic track hits its own peak. The following focal line “Blessed are the dead that the rain falls on” reinforces the idea of death being the fairer destination than the tortured and internally violent existence that has been endured by the protagonist.
There’s no happy ending to be found in the blazing end of Hyperdaze. The concern-laden title track seems like a continuation to the one before it, edging closer to the airless pit of finality. Static again paints the huge track, while eerie tones hum as an undercurrent – given attention at certain focal points. Guitar flares punctuate the stillness of the bridge as well as seem to groan under the weight of the looming end coming.
It’s the end of the track that I feel like I’m waiting for, and its squeals and repeated lines and waves of static are something of a relief. “My final words are deafening” hooks into that “Isochronic environment” line, and branding himself “an imperfect harmony” expresses the sense of failing or ill-fittingness that plagues the protagonist. There’s something awesome about musicians using words related to sound to express their internal struggle.
I’m surprised that I’m not left exhausted by this album at all, given that its themes are clearly dark and heavy. Hyperdaze had an energy of enthusiasm and drive for expression which kept the entire album buoyant to me. It was an album that grew like an organic friendship for me; from a relatively uneventful first meeting through to it seeming to reveal more and more of itself. I feel like this is where the treasure is to be found in what Void Of Vision have created; with repeat visits and curiosity. Might we fall more deeply in love over time? It’s very possible.
Having said this, one of my frustrations was that I wanted to understand more of what was being shared lyrically. With really strong and dramatic statements, I feel like it’d make sense to be really crystal clear in meaning. I wasn’t sure if some of the specific meaning was deliberately veiled or whether some of the sentiment just went over my head. One example of this is my desire to understand how the less obvious titles related to the meaning of the song. That kind of ‘disconnect’ seems to affect memorability of songs too – for me, at least.
Hyperdaze is an album chock full of strong songs, with each seeming to have thought and care taken in putting them together. I appreciated the attention to detail with effects and samples, the album's surprisingly beautiful moments, and the grasp Void Of Vision had upon creating (and shifting) of mood. I felt like if the lyrics more clearly hooked into the energy of what was shared instrumentally, that Hyperdaze would have a far greater impact for me as a listener. I would have loved to have punch the air with a "Fuck yes!" sense of immersion to these tunes. And while Hyperdaze teetered on the edge of this, I was left with a lot of curiosity and questions about what was meant or intended. While I'd love to have felt each lyric and emotion, expressed by every facet of the band, it's exciting to me that this potential is still ahead (and I can't wait to see these songs in the flesh in the future)!
So many thoughtful elements that have gone into 'Hyperdaze' which make it a full-bodied, dynamic album more than any kind of predictable metalcore blast.
I would have loved for the songs to pull me in to their meaning and emotion. Some of that felt tucked away behind the darkness.