Who: Body Void with special guests Graboids and Pillar of Light
What: Live concert
When: December 11, 2023
Where: The Sanctuary
Why: Because Body Void whips ass, obviously, and it turns out so do Graboids and Pillar of Light
How: Via a long drive from the west side of the state with the homie and photographer Steve and some obligatory Taco Bell
Back in December, I drove down to Hamtramck to once again witness the destructive force that is Body Void. Initially the plan was to conduct an on-camera interview, but a temporary illness in the band (which didn’t stop them from absolutely crushing) pushed that plan off. Instead, Willow Ryan and I exchanged questions and answers through a messaging app to have an interview with something of a live feel. That, along with my own winter cold, and a family vacation, has unfortunately pushed this article back long than I would have liked, but with as hard as this band tours, these words should remain relevant. Also included are the live sets by all three bands captured by Steve (aka The Art of B – go check out his YouTube channel under that name).
Up first was new Detroit area band Pillar of Light. I didn’t realize when I made plans to go to this show, but this quintet formed from the ashes of the fantastic and unique hardcore band Great Reversals. One of the members of both is drummer Eric Scobie, who is a very talented drummer, but also someone I’ve gotten to know over the last several years. This was only our second in-person meeting, but we’ve stayed in touch for the last decade or so through social media, so it was fantastic to get to hang out a bit before the show to catch up and chat. Pillar of Light, while there is some overlap with Great Reversals, leans away from hardcore and into a raging post-metal sound. Long tracks capture the honest, emotional intensity of the band. Though the project is very new, it was abundantly clear that these are scene veterans who are very comfortable on stage, capturing and holding the audience’s attention with ease. I’m so excited for more to come from these guys. Catch them live if you can and watch for new music coming soon.
Graboids took the stage next. Formed during the pandemic, Graboids have a restless energy, as if contained too long in one place, unable to move freely. They played a ripping set that mixed hardcore, punk, noise rock, and an in-your-face energy to match their groovy oblivion. I was very impressed by this quartet from Detroit, as I fully expected to be once I noticed the MDOP sticker on the bass. Real recognizes real.
Body Void rounded out the night with a punishing set. I’m impressed that the venue survived, the band was so heavy, but the Sanctuary is made of tough stuff. I’ve been a fan of this band for a very long time, but I didn’t catch them live until their tour with Primitive Man about a year and a half ago (I think…unless it was just last summer. Nope, Facebook says it was 2022). This marked only my second time catching them live, and they had already evolved since that first opportunity. With the new prominence of noise on the latest album, Willow Ryan took on noise duties in addition to scorching vocals. Newest (official) member Janys-Iren Faughn handled bass duties, as was the case the last time I saw them. Founding member Edward Holgerson continues on drums. Jacob Lee (Hellish Form, Keeper) rounds out the live lineup with guitar duties. That quartet of talent is untouchable. They delivered an absolute knockout blow of nasty, anti-capitalist, antifascist sludge doom. See this band every chance you get!
Video of the live sets are below, then further down is my interview with Willow Ryan of Body Void.
Pillar of Light
Hayduke X: Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. I’m such a huge fan of the new album (the entire Body Void discography really, but the new album is truly special), and it was great catching your crushing set live in Detroit. Can you start by introducing yourself and your roles in the band?
Willow Ryan: Thanks! I’m Willow Ryan. On the record I play guitar, bass, synths, and vocals. Live, I do vocals and noise.
HX: If I’m remembering correctly, the project started as a duo. I believe there has been some fairly recent lineup changes and I know you played in Detroit as a quartet. Walk me through your current lineup.
Willow: We started as a trio actually, but our original bassist left in 2019, which is when we became a duo. But that was mainly due to the early pandemic, which kind of froze things for us. Janys-Iren really joined the band in 2020, but it wasn’t until Atrocity Machine that we made it official. Jacob Lee came aboard this year to play guitar live, since it felt like the new album was a little much for three people to handle live.
HX: Sorry for the confusion. Lol. I know there was a period where you were a duo. Thanks for clearing that up. As far as writing Atrocity Machine, was that done as a trio?
Willow: I’m the primary songwriter. I bring demos to Eddie and Janys and they write their parts or we write them together. Janys, who handled the more free form noise and power electronics on the record, lives across the country, so their stuff got sent in pretty late in the process. While Eddie and I live together and work the songs out by playing them together.
HX: That must be a really interesting dynamic with some local and some distance collaboration. Has there been noise and power electronics elements on prior releases? I don’t think I really noticed it until Atrocity Machine, where it’s very clear.
Willow: They’re present on the previous two releases, Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth and the Burn The Homes of Those Who Seek To Control Our Bodies EP. The difference is the more rhythmic synthesizer stuff we added on Atrocity Machine which is overall more central.
HX: It definitely works. What were some of your musical influences while writing Atrocity Machine or what were you listening to around that time?
Willow: Pharmakon, Wolf Eyes, Killing Joke, and Controlled Bleeding were all influences beside our more foundational stuff like Indian and Primitive Man. An album I listened to a lot from last year that I feel had some influence also is Haunted Horses’ The Worst Has Happened. Extremely underrated band.
HX: I’ll definitely have to look that one up! Lyrically, the album is very (justifiably) angry. Can you tell us about the lyrical themes?
Willow: The album is mostly about the day to day horror of living in the US with all the stressors of capitalism, an exploitative job market, police violence, climate violence, mass shootings, etc and how these things are disseminated as news by corporate media in the online age. Even when these things in their most sensationalized or extreme aren’t directly impacting you, just seeing them in the world takes a toll while you continue to keep your head above water at your soul crushing day job. We wanted to capture that overwhelming feeling of despair and anger when you allow the totality of it all to actually sit with you.
HX: Is there any sense of how to survive in this capitalist hellscape, or is the album just witness to it?
Willow: More the latter. I personally feel like that’s more our “job” than being prescriptive about it within the music itself. Just to explore the emotions of it. Obviously we stand against it and I don’t want to sound like we’re giving into it either. That all said, I think there is an element of survival in the acknowledgement. Like for me the lyrics and emotions of the music often come from a place of needing those ideas and feelings to live somewhere other than inside of me so they don’t destroy me otherwise.
HX: That makes sense. Do you find the process to be actually cathartic?
Willow: Definitely. On a few fronts.
HX: Do you have a favorite track on the album? I think it’s currently ‘Cop Show’ for me. If so, why is it your favorite?
Willow: ‘Cop Show’ is probably mine as well. I’m really proud of that song. After playing it live, I don’t think we’ve written anything that hits harder than the main riff on that song. It’s where everything kind of comes together sonically for me on the record. Where all our ideas kinda payoff. I also think it also has the most focused lyrical subject matter on the record as well.
HX: It’s definitely powerful in so many ways. Tell me about the album art, the artist, how it connects to the album, etc.
Willow: Aesthetically it’s really inspired by ‘Tetsuo: The Iron Man.’ There’s an element of human turning into machine, but it’s also specific to the themes we were talking about before becoming an inextricable part of the body as well. Ethan McCarthy aka Hell Simulation did the art. During the pandemic, he did this series of propaganda style posters about the horrors of American life which was one of the big reasons we wanted him to do the cover art. We also wanted something that would just immediately visually set the album apart from our past stuff which was all black and white and done by Ibay Arifin Suradi.
HX: I know you’re in another project called Hellish Form. Can you give me a brief rundown on that project? Are any of the other members in other projects currently?
Willow: Yeah that’s my funeral doom band with Jacob that he and I started in 2020. Basically a way to pay tribute to our more melodic and “pretty” influences. Jacob is in a ton of bands, but I believe his main one right now is Elder Devil, who just released an album on Prosthetic as well. He’s also in Keeper, which is how we met and Body Void did a split with them a few years ago. Janys has a solo project called Entresol which is on the ambient/noise side of things.
HX: Very cool. I’m more or less familiar with all of those except Entresol, which I’ll have to check out. How did Body Void end up signing with Prosthetic?
Willow: We met Stephen from Prosthetic years ago and a few of our friends signed with them around the same time, so when we finished Bury Me… we sent it to them and they agreed to put it out. They’ve been very good to us.
HX:That’s good to hear. They seem to generally have a positive reputation. What’s next for Body Void?
Willow: I think we’re gonna be touring pretty hard next year to continue supporting the album and we have a couple smaller releases we’re hoping to have out next year as well. There was an outtake that didn’t make it onto Atrocity Machine that we’ve reworked that we hope can talk about soon.
HX: Exciting! I can’t wait. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Willow: That’s it for me.
HX: Thank you so much for your time! I really appreciate it.
Willow: No problem, thanks!