Splitting Hairs / Hearing Splits (Jul-Dec 2021)
|Written by:||RaduP, musclassia, nikarg, omne metallum, X-Ray Rod, Netzach|
We regularly review full lengths, collaborations, sometimes even live albums. EPs and demos often get love in our Clandestine Cuts series. Heck, we even review a bunch of stuff that isn't metal. But when was the last time you saw a review of a split album? Exactly! We are here to make up for that!
Covering the splits that were released in the second half of 2021. Take a listen to some artists putting out a record together without necessarily collaborating. The annoyance of having two or three Bandcamp streams, often with just one of the sides is worth the effort.
SH/HS 2021 Part 1
SH/HS 2020 Part 2
SH/HS 2020 Part 1
Splits between death metal bands are pretty commonplace, for a pretty major reason: there's so many of them. But it's not like death metal has a monopoly on the split culture, with grind and black also having their fair share, but whereas a lot of grind and black bands that do splits are really underground bands that either release more splits than actual records or release a dozen albums an year. So, no surprise that OSDM, who keeps riding its resurgence wave, is doing the numbers in the splits game. Joining two doomy death bands, Polish newcomers Eternal Rot and Japanese classics Coffins, this split is pretty meaty, with three of the four songs being over 6 minutes in runtime. The Eternal Rot side is both atmospheric and cavernous, but with some more direct punchy riffing, while the Coffins side sports a re-recording of one of their older staple songs and a cover of Nihilist's (pre-Entombed) "Carnal Leftovers". Needless to say, it bangs.
Bandcamp: Label (full) / Eternal Rot side
As the issues of this series to date make clear, there are certain genres that are highly represented in split releases, including doom, stoner, sludge, grindcore and death. Less so melodic death, but here are Night In Gales and Nyktophobia to rectify that. Having said that, Night In Gales’s version of melodeath is much closer to actual death metal than some bands in the genre, with hoarse vocals, crunching guitars and blasting drumming. Nyktophobia also keep the drumming powerful and tempo high on their songs, but feature clearer melody in their music, whether in the riffs or the guitar leads. They also bring some changes in tone into their songs, such as the slowdown during the solo of “Winter Assault” that allows the sorrowful guitar melodies to really shine.
Bandcamp: Night In Gales (full) / Nyktophobia (full)
Botanist / Thief - Cicatrix / Diamond Brush
This is the kind of split album where each of the bands' sides could've been an EP, with Cicatrix also sometimes being dubbed as EP0 to cement its place among the other Botanist EPs. Botanist's hammered-dulcimer-driven post-black metal should already be familiar to our readers, but Thief is a project I was also unfamiliar with. Thief is the solo project of Dylan Neal, who actually did play hammered dulcimer in Botanist between 2013 and 2016, and though he did not perform on 2014's Flora, he was part of the touring outfit and has contributed to its follow-up. Cicatrix was recorded during the same recording sessions of Flora, with the tracks being unreleased hitherto, and listening to them, I can kind of get why they never made it to Flora, with their raw unpolished quality. Cicatrix also features two remixes, each about as long as the actual root EP. Thief's music is more electronic and industrial, with Diamond Brush acting as a more rock-focused instrumentation in addition to the electronic soundscapes, acting as a complement to the full length Thief had released on the same day as the split, namely The 16 Deaths Of My Master.
Bandcamp: Thief (full)
Integrity / Nothing - Two Minutes To Late Night Presents: Splitsville 7"
Born out of the Splitsville series, Two Minutes To Late Night Presents: Splitsville 7" [Split] is quite the culture clash, matching one of the fathers of hardcore Integrity with shoegazers Nothing who take turns covering a seminal song out of each other’s repertoire. In this regard Nothing had the better starting point, covering the hardcore classic “Those Who Fear Tomorrow”, which is bent out of shape and reformed as a gentle dream pop track. Featuring Turnover-esque guitars, the band do an ok job with the song, turning what was once a rager into a song you can put on your headphones and unwind to. Integrity for their part cover “The Rites Of Love And Death” in its original form which renders it somewhat the less interesting of the two, especially as the band are unable to shift their sound sufficiently enough to make it sound like a natural fit. With the original “The Rites Of Love And Death” being a soothing escape before ending on a sublime guitar outro, Integrity’s is undermined by the abrasive vocals of Hellion who does not fit the part at all.
Bandcamp: Integrity side
Spotify: Nothing side
by omne metallum
Well, the Christmas season is done and dusted. Well, unless you were also too lazy to take down the Christmas decorations. But at least "All I Want For Christmas Is You" is no longer playing on the radio every day. So instead, you might wanna feel festive with some Christmas death metal. Which is basically almost indistinguishable from death metal anyways, save for a few melodies and samples. So here we have the Finns Cadaveric Incubator and the Danes Undergang, both filthy death metal bands with more than ten years of experience, and with pretty great releases in the past couple of years, and the two songs on display here are about as murky, grindy and doomy as you'd want to find under your Christmas tree. Just make sure you're naughty this year.
Bandcamp: Label (full) / Cadaveric Incubator side / Undergang side
Portrayal Of Guilt / Chat Pile
Two full-lengths obviously not being enough, Portrayal Of Guilt also found time to put out another song, “Touched By An Angel”, on a split with noise rock/sludge band Chat Pile. The song follows in a very similar vein to their other music from this year, traversing through moody noise rock and a brief sludge dirge before unleashing an onslaught of blackened hardcore. Chat Pile leaves out the last part on “Brutal Truth”, instead opting for dirty noise rock influenced by post-punk punctuated with grimmer sludge moments, during which the shouted vocals that feature during the bulk of the song descend into vile growls. There’s not much more that can be said about a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ effort such as this, but each track does the job; even though it’s not going to live long in the memory, this split won’t make you regret the time you spend listening to it.
Bandcamp: Portrayal Of Guilt (full) / Chat Pile (full)
It's Halloween. You and your friends are going to a cabin as freshmen. Two couples, and you, alone. On your way there, a few locals at the gas station warn you that a spooky nun slaughter happened there seven years ago. You decide that it's an urban legend and you aren't scared of the boogie man. You arrive there, the place seems pretty run down, but you've got some booze with you. You find a book with a pentagram on it that speaks of the curse of the the black spider. It's signed by Jennifer. Two of your friends find an excuse to sneak out and have sex. You don't hear from them in a while. Then you hear a noise outside. Your friends decide to go out and investigate. They can't find anything so they decide to split up. You don't hear from them again. You take a lantern and go to the basement. You find their heads floating in a large cauldron. A witch and a wraith cooking a concoction out of their remains. Spooky.
Bandcamp: Acid Witch (full)
Maggot Heart / Okkultokrati
Odd thing to have a great split with bands that share so little. Maggot Heart presents a bitter mix of garage rock, post punk and heavy metal. Linnea Olsson's previous endeavors with Beastmilk, Grave Pleasures and most importantly The Oath serve as a good starting point for comparison. At it's fiercest moments the band references the mighty Motörhead with thundering basslines and punchy drumming. Linnea Olsson only played guitars before but her voice is convincing and mixes nicely with the well-written lyrics about disillusionment and social alienation. As the first side ends, the punk turns much sourer and quite otherwordly. Okkultokrati seem to be the type of band that throws anything filthy into the pot ending with a vicious and addictive result. The ingredients range from crust punk to heavy metal. Even sludge and black metal influences rear their ugly heads here and there. The production in particular makes them stand out with echoing, distant vocals and a harsh sound that is disorienting, nearly psychedelic at times. While I really enjoyed the music provided by both bands, I can't help but feel they should have released their music separately. Punk seems to be the common thread here but the difference in sound and lack of chemistry between both bands hurts the overall product.
Bandcamp: Maggot Heart side / Okkultokrati side
by X-Ray Rod
Pharmacist / Fluids - Feeling Young
This split is brutal, it really is. It features Pharmacist, a band that was formed in Japan in early 2020 but has already made an impact on the underground with its decomposing slab of old-school grinding death metal in the vein of early Carcass. The themes of internal medicine and general surgery are here to satisfy your sick minds and the headbang-demanding riffs are also here paired with some immense groove. Fluids is a band from the United States, formed in 2018 but with already three full-length albums under their belt. On the Feeling Young split, they unleash a mix of blasting grindcore and brutal death metal; imagine a throwdown between Mortician, Crowbar, and Morbid Angel, peppered with disturbed samples of amateur documentary films that are laced with original synths and electronics. Yes, it is as indecent as it sounds.
Bandcamp: Pharmacist side / Fluids side / Label (full)
Yanomamö / Slomatics
Slomatics love themselves a good split; approaching double figures by now, this isn’t even their first split this year, with their effort with Ungraven featuring in the mid-year edition of this article. This time, they pair up with Australian sludge doom band Yanomamö, who are as plodding and dirty as you would expect on their track, “Dig 2 Graves”. The track opens with droning, bluesy riffs and fits in time for a little Sabbath-style softer section before ending where it starts. Slomatics’s guitar tone is even dirtier and fuzzier than Yanomamö’s, although the eerie Ozzy-esque clean vocals contrast from Yanomamö’s vicious rasps. Chunkier and less droning, “Griefhound” is a generic yet meaty track, one that mirrors “Dig 2 Graves” by having a brief mid-song interlude as well, one that ultimately leads to a surprisingly triumphant conclusion to the song and split courtesy of some well-placed keyboards.
Bandcamp: Yanomamo (full) / Slomatics (full)
Moeror / Human Serpent / Kvadrat - Split 2021
This is a split featuring three black metal bands from Greece that are embracing a more modern but still very raw sound that has nothing to do with the early ‘90s trademark style of the scene. It is good music for a good cause since all income from this release is donated to help and support animals that were affected in the Greek wildfires that took place during last summer. Kvadrat is a black/death metal band that appears here with one song. Human Serpent contribute with two tracks that were also part of their 2020 EP, entitled Shrouds, which was released for a similar cause - to support the medical needs of animals that suffered in the Australian wildfires. Moeror and Human Serpent are similar in sound and they take part with one hateful and furious black metal song each. The second piece of Moeror is droney and haunting, while Human Serpent’s track is piano-driven. Both bands shared the same frontman, X., who sadly left this world shortly after the release of this split. May he rest in peace.
Bandcamp: Moeror (full) / Human Serpent (Shrouds only) / Kvadrat (full)
Probably the most well-known extinction events are the Holocene one (that we're going through right now) and the Cretaceous–Paleogene one that lead to the extinction of the dinosaurs. But neither of those were the most severe extinction event (yet), dwarfed by the massive event colloquially known as "The Great Dying". You can go read about how many of Earth's species went extinct then in your own time. The gist of it is: it was massive. What better bands to make music about it than the bass-driven prehistoric war metal Thecodontion and the noise machine of glacial riffs Vessel Of Iniquity? (Please don't answer The Ocean, they already have a song about it) The approaches between the two bands couldn't be more different, since Thecodontion were already themed around prehistory, but their bassy punchy approach does have quite a punkish approach on doomy death, while Vessel Of Iniquity is cold and impersonal, with ambient sections breaking up the glacial industrial noise and drum machine blasts. Neither of this split's three songs would rank highly compared to the latest two albums by each bands, but it is nonetheless a pretty compelling concept split.
Bandcamp: Label (full)
Two magical forces, Wizzerd and Merlin, join forces for the third entry into Ripple Music’s Turned To Stone split series, which can fill the void in this edition left by the slowdown of Heavy Psych Sounds’s Doom Sessions series. Chapter III features 1 song each from the two bands and runs for 40 minutes, so obviously there’s some long, sprawling music to be found here. Wizzerd’s psychedelic stoner jam gives the split a strong first half, hitting all the expected beats (fuzzy chillout riffs, some driving desert sections, doomy periods and some lengthy jamming solos), but the template works when it’s done this well, as “We Are” makes for very easy and satisfying listening. “Merlin’s Bizarre Adventure” is more rooted in doom, with heavier guitar tones and slower pace, at least to begin with; while “We Are” is a consistent experience throughout, “Merlin’s Bizarre Adventure” lives up to the name, with Merlin taking sudden detours into funky old-school prog rock (flute and all) and 80s-influenced synth-heavy sections. The splits offers two different approaches to a 20-minute psychedelic rock/metal song; I’m personally more taken with Wizzerd’s entry, but can still enjoy the genre-hopping of Merlin.
Bandcamp: Label (full)
Named after a book from Charles Darwin, Various Plants And Animals Under Domestication features two bands with animal-inspired names. Of the two, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy are the first to be heard, bringing a quartet of songs that are rooted in a driving noise rock/sludge sound. However, while most of their contributions are up-tempo, noisy and angry, TGLH do dabble with some softer moments, such as the ominous-yet-muted closing minutes of “Indifference Apocalypse”, which are ultimately fleshed out further in their longest song on the split, the jamlike doomy instrumental “Unending Mediocrity”. Woorms, despite only having one song on the split to TGLH’s four, take up the majority of the record with their 20-minute behemoth “Areola Borealis”. Ostensibly a stoner doom song, “Areola Borealis” shifts gears almost at random, jumping from slow fuzzy riffs to driving desert rock, and from mellow psychedelic jam to ambient nature sound effects. Woorms’s song may have benefited from being slightly more focused, but overall it’s a nice contrast to the noisy fire of the bulk of TGLH’s side of the split.
Bandcamp: Label (full) / The Grasshopper Lies Heavy (full) / Woorms side
ACxDC / Pig City
You might know ACxDC as the powerviolence band that has a hilariously similar name to Aussie rockers AC/DC, and for how fast and unrelenting they are. Despite starting out in 2003, ACxDC only have two albums out, the latter of which was released last year and I reviewed, but other than that, there's a shitload of EPs and splits. This one, done alongside Arizona powerviolence act Pig City, is their first release since the new album. And, I regret to inform you that ACxDC have sold out. Why? Because out of all the songs on this split, there's only one song longer than two minutes, and it's ACxDC's. "Right Of Death" is only eight seconds longer than the two-minute mark, but it completely ruins their credibility. And, who would've guessed, Pig City are pretty good. They're a bit closer to sludgy metalcore than ACxDC's grindy crust approach, but they're great chemistry between the two.
Bandcamp: Label (full) / Pig City side
Joining previous Metal Storm Awards nominees Verdun on this split from Seaside Suicide Records are fellow sludge merchants Old Iron. The latter open up the debut with the ferocious sludge doom track “Planetesimal”, with vicious roars, quality riffs and some really tasty guitar leads that elevate the song. Showing themselves to not be one-dimensional, Old Iron opt for a slow atmospheric build into “Strix”, which turns down the venom in favour of a more emotional approach, whether coming from the sad guitar leads, the melancholic of the chords in the riffs or the soft outro. With Old Iron doing such a fine job with their two songs, the bar is high for Verdun, who rise to the challenge with “Narconaut”, a song that fits many of the different elements of Old Iron’s songs into a single track, with a side of stoner fuzz in there to boot. Rounded off with an impressive reimagining of Morbid Angel’s “Dawn Of The Angry”, this split is the pick of the bunch in this issue, at least in my eyes.
Bandcamp: Label (full) / Old Iron (preorder) / Verdun side
Ezra Brooks / Serpent Rider - Visions Of Esoteric Splendor
Are you up for some arcane and epic heavy metal? Visions Of Esoteric Splendor is a split EP by two relatively new bands, Ezra Brooks and Serpent Rider, who haven’t released any full lengths yet. The former is a project by S. Vincent, guitarist of epic doomsters Smoulder. The guitars on the Ezra Brooks songs are in the forefront and there are superb melodies, skilful solos, and sick riffs on this one. The vocals need some work but they are cleverly mixed and heard in the distance so that they give a mysterious feel. Serpent Rider have a similar take on epic and speedy heavy metal, only with clearer production and female vocals that remind me a little of Lordian Guard. The vocals here also need some improvement though, in my opinion. Both bands have included one cover each, Ezra Brooks have tried their hands on Ironsword’s “Legions” and Serpent Rider have included their version of Varathron’s “Flowers Of My Youth”. I found both bands very pleasing and I expect every traditional metal lover to enjoy this split. Ezra Brooks was my favourite between the two.
Bandcamp: Ezra Brooks side / Serpent Rider side
Giöbia / The Cosmic Dead - The Intergalactic Connection - Exploring The Sideral Remote Hyperspace
In the absence of any Doom Sessions volumes in the latter half of 2021, Heavy Psych Sounds instead brought out The Intergalactic Connection - Exploring The Sideral Remote Hyperspace, a ludicrously titled split featuring Giöbia and The Cosmic Dead. Slightly lighter than the Doom Sessions, The Intergalactic Connection instead features a selection of heavy space/psychedelic rock. Giöbia kick the song off with the up-tempo and constant drive of “Canyon Moon”, which veers between softer and harder periods in a highly fluid manner thanks to the unflinching consistency of the underlying rhythm. “Julia Dream” is a bit more flower power, while “Meshes Of The Afternoon” rounds up their contributions in ambient fashion. Much like the Woorms/The Grasshopper Lies Heavy split also featured in this article, The Intergalactic Connection is comprised of one band with several shorter songs, and one band with a 20-minute monster that outlasts the other group’s songs combined. In this instance, The Cosmic Dead dwarf Giöbia with “Crater Creator”, a song that follows a typical psychedelic rock odyssey trajectory, from the prolonged build in the introduction, through the gradually intensifying riffs and onto the extended solos. Tailor-made to appeal to Earthless fans, “Crater Creator” takes the cake on this split.
Bandcamp: Label (full) / Giöbia side / The Cosmic Dead side
Trhä / Celestial Sword
Trying to find out what the languages used on both of this split’s tracks gave some hearsay about it being a made-up one known only to sole Trhä member Thét Älëf. It may very well be so, but this in turn makes me wonder why both tracks on this release use it. Perhaps it is better left unanswered. Nearly three quarters of the full runtime consist of 16-minute piece “Edënohhdlha Hálgra Tu Majtranlh'ha” by US-based one-man band Celestial Sword. Heavily inspired by Locrian, it uses a nearly identical sound palette, but blasts on all cylinders for most of the time. The latter half of the song relies on a groovy riff, which is good enough to render the first 7 minutes forgettable. Vocals are too high, and drums too low. Not bad, but doesn’t warrant its length. On the contrary, “Ga Nëcëcta Mon Idlhi” by Trhä is anything but forgettable, wrangling the grimy opening riff into less and less recognizable shapes while effortlessly moving through the song’s five parts. Rhythms shift around for some minutes, and then Trhä adds an eerie electric piano hook for just long enough to have it sucked into a vortex of tempo-irreverent toms before ending on a sublime note with a lovably alien lead guitar melody. Too bad this song makes up just a quarter of the split, it’s excellent.
Bandcamp: Trhä (full) / Celestial Sword (full)
Triple Kill / Orpheus Omega - Career Suicide
In the wise words of Woods Of Ypres: "Career suicide is not real suicide". So... we have a cover art that's a tribute to Green Day's Dookie, probably the greatest pop punk album of all time. And then you have two Aussie bands, one heavy/power, the other melodeath, attempting to commit career suicide by covering a bunch of staple pop punk songs like Avril Lavigne's "Sk8er Boi" or Fountains Of Wayne's "Stacy's Mom". Each of the two bands have to kinda make their sound a bit more pop metal-ish, but approaching it from their respective genres, and while neither of these would sound like bona fide melodeath or heavy/power songs free of the ridiculously fun factor. Instead of having a side for each band, the album alternates between the two bands. Triple Kill seemed to go more for the songs that would feel most ridiculous, while Orpheus Omega actually managed to cover a song I wasn't familiar with, in addition to actually covering a song from the album that the cover is paying tribute to. It's all good fun.
Blunt Horse / Grilth
Two up-and-coming American sludge/stoner bands bring 30 minutes of music to the table on this particular split. Blunt Horse, with a full-length album to their name already, are the more experienced of the two, and are the one with perhaps the more unique sound. In “Nuke The Blow”, there’s blasting and tech-death metal moments, stoner doom with singing, sludge with shouting, all just about assembled in a manner that makes sense. “No Reprise” similarly fluctuates between lighter stoner and heavier sludge takes on the middle ground between the two genres, with eerie cleans and bluesy guitar leads found alongside blasts and growls. Grilth operate much in the same way; the bulk of “Foul Beast Ahead” lingers in that fuzzy, dirty intersection of sludge, stoner and doom, but there’s a lot of blasting later on in the song. This blasting curiously enough shows the slight discrepancy that may exist in the resources available to both bands, as the production on Grilth’s songs can’t quite handle such intense drumming, resulting in a slightly muffled sound during these stretches. The group’s other song, “Crooked Back And Broken Spirit” is more single-minded in its commitment to the filthy sludge/stoner doom sound; however, with just so many bands at present putting out music within this field, the slight deviations from the norm that both Blunt Horse and Grilth introduce on this split will give them some chance of distinguishing themselves from the crowd.
Bandcamp: Blunt Horse (full) / Grilth (full)
Anything we miss? What were some of your favorite splits of the year so far?
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