Chicago's Black September make a wonderful case for the looming apocalypse on their 2012 sophomore album, Into the Darkness Into the Void, but the group's virulent blend of death and black metal is only half the story here: the other half is told by Jen Pickett's top-caliber vocal performance. Taking female contributions in this arena to entirely new heights (or guttural depths, as it were), her earth-sundering roars lack for none of the violence or power delivered by any man or demon before her; in fact, their only negative implication is perhaps drawing almost too much attention away from her Black September bandmates' very impressive instrumental contributions. For all of the inescapable sonic brutality associated with both black and death metal, the Windy City quintet does an excellent job of applying the former's grim but cleanly produced aesthetic to the latter's exceedingly busy yet disciplined technique, thereby conjuring songs filled with endless riff and tempo changeups and dark-and-darker contrasts, without ever devolving into a muddled, noisy mess. As a result, carefully arranged and confidently executed standouts like "Solitude," "Cursed," and "Defiance" bear generous witness to these talents, and while the four-on-the-floor thrashcore gallop midway through "Rabid Hunger" and "Beyond the Realms" prove to be less congruent with their surroundings, they still constitute some entertaining surprises. All these elements considered, the final tally easily puts Into the Darkness Into the Void into the winning column of death/black (mostly black) metal releases in 2012. Good for Black September and their secret weapon of a singer.