Voidcraeft Plays by the Rules on New Record


For the last several years, the man behind the mysterious black metal act Voidcraeft has been dutifully toiling like a reclusive cenobite to craft some of the most otherworldly and inspired extreme metal around. Drawing equally from the pools of classic second wave black metal like Paysage d’Hiver as well as the gonzo stylings of xenharmonic alchemists like Jute Gyte, Voidcraeft has been writing angular, discordant black metal at an unrelenting pace. I’ve been meaning to cover Voidcraeft for quite some time now, but it almost seems that he drops a new record just as I’ve wrapped my mind around the previous album. Most fascinating, though, is the way the multi-instrumentalist documents his own process of creation. On new EP Dogma, Voidcraeft gave himself an even more daunting challenge: create and abide by formalized rules of creation.

Naturally, the idea of writing music by preestablished rules is far from novel. Other acts in rock and metal, such as The Mars Volta and The Human Abstract, have set personal rules or guidelines for upcoming records, but Voidcraeft’s case is intriguing in that the inspiration for his new ordinances lies not within the realm of metal, but rather film. As Voidcraeft details on his Bandcamp page, his new rules for writing music were inspired by Lars von Trier’s and Thomas Vinterberg’s Dogme 95.

For those unfamiliar with the world of film, Dogme 95 was a pretentious manifesto penned by the Danish directors as a means of rejecting the special effects-driven bloat of big budget Hollywood action films. The manifesto’s precepts are essentially:

  1. Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).
  2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot.)
  3. The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted.
  4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).
  5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
  6. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now).
  7. Genre movies are not acceptable.
  8. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.
  9. The director must not be credited.

von Trier’s and Vinterberg’s manifesto was an attempt to reclaim artistry for the directors from studios; in practicality, the rules produced gratuitously hedonistic and provocative films like Idioterne. Does Voidcraeft’s own creation avoid the pitfall of butt-spelunking that self-indulging artistry perpetuates?

Note: Antichrist is not a Dogme 95 film

Let’s examine Voidcraeft’s own rules for a start.

  1. Rule of Sound: Only the following sounds may be used: distorted guitars, distorted bass, acoustic drums (no drum machine), high-pitched/low-pitched growls. Each one of these types of sound must be used at least once per track.
  2. Rule of Recording: Each instrumental track and the vocals must be recorded in one continuous take, no segmented recording is permitted. The playback rate and the offsets of samples may not be digitally altered after they have been recorded.
  3. Rule of Aggression: Each track must feature at least 30 seconds of blast beat (either traditional or hammer blast).
  4. Rule of Effort: A track must be at least 2 minutes and 30 seconds in length and a release must be at least 40 minutes in length.
  5. Rule of Language: The lyrics of a release must be written in a natural language (as opposed to constructed languages) and not more than one language may be used per release.

These rules seem, at least in part, a response to Voidcraeft’s own workflow. Since the musician effectively began his career in 2013, he’s released 4 full lengths and 13 EPs. While that work ethic is certainly admirable, you can’t exactly be faulted for wondering if Voidcraeft could benefit from reining in his creative process. The rules above, at least, seem to have addressed this issue, and others, to a degree.

In many ways, setting specific guidelines for creation seems to have benefitted Voidcraeft. In comparison to his earlier works like Ascetic Elite and Faceless EpochDogma feels trim, brisk, and direct. The riffs, while still angular and spectral, have been pared down to their sharpest and most visceral. The organic drums are a welcome touch as well, though some may miss the cold mechanism of his earlier rhythmic work reminiscent of Blut Aus Nord. Plus, the EP’s shorter run-time, likely a function of Rule 2, seems to have counterintuitively allowed some of Voidcraeft’s best ideas to bubble the surface. There’s a greater sense of melodicism (heard in the Void Omnia-invoking leads) and dynamics than on previous effort Un futur cadavre, no mean feat considering that the albums were released only a month apart. Take a listen to Un futur cadavre below and see if you can spot the differences yourself.

Paradoxically, Un futur cadavre seems the more indulgent of the two records, evident in the way certain note passages, such as the transition riffs in “Vida surhumain” carry on just a bit longer than expected. Perhaps this result is indeed a function of the rules themselves. Although we often consider rules as limiting our personal freedoms (creative or otherwise), we may actually be viewing the process of rule-following from a misguided epistemology. Philosopher Crispin Wright, on evaluating Wittgenstein and Chomskynoted that “if we follow [rules], then presumably they lead.” This seems to actually be the case for both von Trier and Voidcraeft. For his directorial work on The Idiots, von Trier claimed accolades from the Bodil Awards, Cannes Film Festival, and more. Similarly, Voidcraeft, in attempting to follow his own rules for songcrafting, seems to have produced some of his most vital work to date.

Of note, though, is the fact that both von Trier and Voidcraeft immediately broke their own rules upon setting those prescriptions. von Trier intervened with location on the set of Idioterne, and final track “No Words” clocks in at less than two minutes. In fact, it seems that both artists are incapable of getting out of their own ways during the process of creation. von Trier’s Nymphomaniac has been described as “infurating self-indulgence,” while Voidcraeft readily admits his own hubris on his Bandcamp page. He even goes so far as to abase himself for refashioning a drawing of Fyodor Dostoyevsky into his own image, but the shame at doing so wasn’t quite enough to overcome his conceit.

Ultimately, I think it is that conceit, juxtaposed against his earnestness, that makes Voidcraeft, and his music by extension, so fascinating. Few artists today demonstrate such candor and willingness to open the veil and grant us a look at the creation process, warts and all. Voidcraeft’s detailed creation process hearkens back to the heyday of liner notes and inside peeks that seems to have fallen to the wayside in the digital era. For this reason (and for the ripping black metal certain to suit fans of outré acts like Dodecahedron and Thantifaxath), Voidcraeft deserves whatever attention his indulgence gains him.

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  • Joaquin Stick

    Interesting stuff W. I was always way better in creative endeavors when I had rules. Writing prompts were so easy and fun, but having a blank page usually led to mental torture. His rules don’t seem overly stifling. Still lots of room to create. If it were me, probably too much room. I need more arbitrary guidelines.

    • Joaquin Stick

      I propose Catme 69 – Inspired by Voidcraft inspired by Dogme 95.
      1. Rule of Barney – All songs must at least have a two word phrase taken from “I love you, you love me” .
      2. Rule of Thumb – Every bar must have at least one snap of the fingers.
      3. Rule of Noodle – Solos are only acceptable as fading outros.
      4. Rule of Bro – When performing live, DMB style jam sessions must occur at least once per ten minutes of recorded music.
      5. Rule of Tools – Every song must contain at least 11 instruments.
      6. Rule of Grohl – All recorded material should be radio friendly.

      • Space Monster W.

        …I’ll allow it.

  • Black Unbeard

    sooooo, hes gonna make a blackened death metal album?

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    I want to write a long comment but I need to think it out first, check back later Dubbz.

    • Space Monster W.


      • Señor Jefe El Rosa

        So maybe not as long as I’d hoped but you kind of touched on the sentiment I am trying to make already. By creating self-imposed(this being the key component) rules the artists are forcing themselves to rely on their strengths and create a more concise art piece. You note that both artists in question have created their best works to date, I do not believe this to be a coincidence. There must be a correlation. By setting the rules and abiding by them, they are forcing themselves to focus, make each moment count and not let their minds stray from the task at hand.

        I do find it rather humorous that they both “broke” their own rules. Seemingly as a deliberate and rebellious act of defiance towards the notion of rules in general. That is perhaps a discussion for another time though.

  • Fantastic article W, and fantastic music. Voidcraeft’s list of constraints reads pretty silly–but if it is responsible for what I’m hearing then more power to him. Over time these rules could become hobbling, but using them as a sort of tourniquet for a while can really help an artist to focus and self-edit.

    As for Dogme 95, The Celebration and Breaking the Waves were pretty great, pretty restrained films.

    Oh and I’m totally on board with the addition of live drums.

    • Space Monster W.

      I think the addition of live drums was a big plus for this record. It sounds far more human, which counter-intuitively makes some of those riffs all the more eerie.

      • I can accept programmed drums in out-there stuff like Mories’s work or VMO or even Jute Gyte, but it is an instant mood-killer in metal that is even only relatively straight-up. Listening to black metal with programmed drums is like making love with the dog (or cat) watching. It’s just . . . wrong.

        • Edward

          I feel like programmed drums are a natural part of Blut Aus Nord’s aesthetic. I couldn’t imagine that Pyramids album without them!

          • Man that BAN train left me waaaaaaaaaaaay behind.

          • Edward

            Oh man.

            (what on Earth do you mean, Richter?)

          • I mean I’ve never gotten into them. Cuz fake drumz.

          • Edward

            Oh. I see.

            Has Leviathan ever used fake drums? I heard he had, but always thought that was odd as he was a drummer first.

          • I heard he did on early releases, probably because it is very difficult to record yourself playing drums in your bedroom without any help. The production is so awful on 10th Level that I can’t really tell if they’re fake. That’s the only earlier Leviathan release I own.

          • Edward

            What about Deathspell Omega? Some differences of opinion there…

          • Don’t follow them, wouldn’t know.

          • Black Unbeard

            listen to 777 Sect(s) and be wrong about your entire life and choices

          • Edward

            The 777 trilogy >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

          • Black Unbeard

            i really only care about Sect(s) and The Desanctification. I only dig a couple tracks of Cosmosophy. too much spoken word pretentious crap

  • Eliza

    Maybe this set of rules represents a self awareness of the tropes found in his music. As I’m not familiar with Voidcraeft ‘s work, I can’t say for sure, but it would be interesting.

  • sweetooth0

    Summary of rules: no cheating allowed.

  • ME GORAK™✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ


  • Óðinn

    Chaos rampant, an age of distrust.

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    I forgot to comment when I listened to this last night. Is mighty fine. As to the notion of rules and art, I think them probably best as inspirations rather than hard and fast philosophies. Voidcraeft seems to be on the right track.

    I’m not that keen on von Trier (a very talented film-maker but I’m suspicious of his underlying motivations), but as a personal favourite of rule bound art would recommend George Perec’s novel A Void, written with no use of the letter e. It’s remarkable stuff.

    Swell article W.!