Splitting Hairs / Hearing Splits (Jan-Jun 2022)
|Written by:||RaduP, musclassia, nikarg|
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 2
SH/HS 2021 Part 1
SH/HS 2020 Part 2
Now this is the kind of split that feels more like an actual full-length album than a split, and it's not just because it's around 40 minutes in runtime and each band contributes more than a song, but the material here feels very vital to each of the band rather than something that was cut out from some other album. However there's still two bands with different takes on the black/death sound, but whose union makes sense. Ireland's Malthusian is the kind of band that turned a lot of heads but whose debut full length didn't really live up to the potential of their breakthrough EP, so the material here is monstrously doomy in its atmospheres, layered with dark melodies, throbbing rhythms, hostile soundscapes, feverish vocals, including some from former member AC and Primordial's Nemtheanga. Suffering Hour on the other hand, one of the only bands to get a main page 10/10 review, introduce their side with some spaghetti western inspired soundscapes of acoustic guitars and harmonicas that still permeates the rest of the split even as melodies build up into different territories. Even with the Wayfarer/Untamed Land-touches in place, Suffering Hour mix them up with the usual dynamic black/death and some gothic deathrock sense of melody, culminating in a cover of deathrock band Mighty Sphincter's "Reserection". The contrasting senses of melody create a pretty unique sounding atmosphere for a band that was already getting harder and harder to properly pin down.
Bandcamp: Label (full) / Malthusian (full) / Suffering Hour (full)
Iron Bonehead Productions bring together two veterans of the black metal scene on Apocalyptic Mysticism; both Greece’s Varathron and Ungod (from the label’s own Germany) have been around for over 3 decades, a very long time for non-Nordic black metal bands. Of the songs contributed by these two groups, one of them finds its origins in those early days; Varathron feature with “The Mystic Papyrous”, a track with origins going back to the 90s, although, compared with that original version, the one found on Apocalyptic Mysticism has a modern sound, beefier and more intense, while also opening with a neat little Egyptian-themed acoustic introduction. Ungod’s “Sinister Forms Of Fallen Stars”, in contrast, is entirely new, and represents the band’s first sign of studio activity in 2 years. Curiously, while being written about 25 years apart, the two tracks sound like they could have been written 25 minutes apart, showing how enduring classic black metal continues to be, although given the veteran status of both acts, it’s perhaps not surprising that neither is reinventing the wheel.
Bandcamp: Label (full)
Graveyard (ESP), other than having the bad luck of not calling dibs on the "Graveyard" band name on our website, have always stood out to me as very great collaborators. Not only did they release a shitload of splits, but their albums often feature huge guest lists too. Lie In Ruins stood out to me as being the other band of Desolate Shrine vocalist Roni Sahari, alongside a couple of Corpsessed guys. Here, side by side, it's only the sound that matters, and out of the two it's surprisingly Graveyard (ESP)'s song that is both doomier and faster at the same time, with more extra flourishing from guitar solos and ambient synths, while Lie In Ruins's song is chunkier both in sound and production. The one-song-on-each-side is the classic split formula, so this one doesn't do more than just showcasing a pretty good song from each band.
Bandcamp: Label (Graveyard side)
YouTube: Label (full)
American death/doom collectives Rotting Kingdom and Encoffination join forces on Wretched Enigma Of Salvation to show off how broad that extreme doom label can be. Naming the likes of Anathema and My Dying Bride as influences, Rotting Kingdom are the closer of the two to my tastes, with the morose gothic atmospheres and sad guitar melodies of “Misery Eternal” in particular working very nicely for me, while the gnarlier death/doom riffs hit the right spot with their solid hooks and beastly production (the sickening growls come through perfectly). Encoffination are the more extreme of the duo, as namedropping the likes of Incantation and Disembowelment might indicate; the cavernous production, ultra-deep vocal murmurs and plodding tempo do away with any of the melancholy of Rotting Kingdom in favour of vulgar depravity. Whether you like your death/doom to be sombre or straight-up filthy, Wretched Enigma Of Salvation has you covered.
Bamdcamp: Label (full)
Bedsore / Mortal Incarnation
This is one hell of a split album by 20 Buck Spin. It features two mammoth-sized songs by two forward-thinking and very promising extreme metal bands. Bedsore present their amazing blend of cosmic black metal, technical death metal, and progressive rock. Using synthesizers and a Hammond organ, their arrangements are rich and adventurous, and they have also included a guest solo by VoidCeremony’s Garrett Johnson. Then, from the land of the rising sun, come Mortal Incarnation, whose debut demo was covered in our Clandestine Cuts. It has been almost three years since, but the Japanese are finally back with this split, offering a massive assault of atmospheric, progressive, doomy, and blackened death metal. Fans of Blood Incantation, Disembowelment, and Suffering Hour should really appreciate this. Do not sleep on either of the two bands on this release; they are destined for very interesting things.
Bandcamp: Bedsore (full) / Label (full)
I have touched upon Denmark's recent incestuous death metal scene in a review of an album from a band that ironically isn't on this split. It is a bit odd that they didn't go all the way to make Hexalogy Of Death with Hyperdontia and Sulphurous as well, considering that members of those two are already performing on this split, but my point is nulled by no Deiquisitor members playing in any of the other bands, even if that only means you'd have to get another degree of separation by looking at what other bands they also play in and you'll find some common members. Might also explain why they're the most murky of the bunch. Each track is in this cavernous murky death metal style, but each has just enough variety in production style and vocal style and guitar tone to make it sound like a proper split, to the point where every track change is such a disarming change. If this doesn't turn more heads towards this new death metal Mecca, I don't know what will.
Bandcamp: Label (full)
Anatomia are no strangers to splits, having amassed quite a few of them over their two-decades career. Druid Lord don't fall too far behind either, even if they only released three more than ten years ago. It makes sense why they'd eventually join together, especially considering the attention that both of their most recent albums got among death doom fans. But I was more impressed with Anatomia than Druid Lord, and that continues to be the case here as well. They're somehow both doomier and deathier, even if neither of the two tracks really does much for me.
Bandcamp: Label (full) / Druid Lord side / Anatomia (buy)
This Anatomia / Undergang split, not to be mistaken for the Anatomia / Undergang split from 2017, is a bit of a different beast. It makes sense that these two bands would come back together, since both are split-loving bands, each having another split in this very article, while also threading in similar doomy death territories. And this time around, it's not a one-song-per-side affair, with this split reaching nearly 30 minutes of runtime to take it closer to sounding like a proper full-length. I'm still much more into Undergang than Anatomia, as here the latter have their side of the split made up of a doomier dirge that is in no hurry and a more punky cut, that are pretty good by Anatomia standards but still feel like something to sit through to get to the Undergang side. Even murkier, with more dynamics, vocals made of mud and blood, plenty of riffing and a guitar tone so lumbering it feels like a log dragged through a swamp.
Bandcamp: Label (full) / Undergang side / Anatomia (buy)
This wouldn’t be a splits article if it didn’t feature Slomatics at some point; having regularly released such albums across their career, the British stoners have gone all in on the format recently. This time, they are joined by Domkraft, who justifiably made waves last year with the impressive Seeds. On Ascend / Descend, the two groups take a leaf out of Bog Wizard and Froglord’s book, with each side’s half of the split ending with a cover of a track by the other band. At 36 minutes, this split is very much in full-length territory, and this isn’t a throwaway release; Domkraft kick off with a hefty jam in the form of “The Core Will Pull You Home” before offering engaging takes on Stereolab and Slomatics tracks. Slomatics are a bit doomier and grimmer than Domkraft but sound right in place sat next to them on Ascend / Descend, and opt to cover Domkraft’s “Dustrider”, giving a loud and rowdy record a surprisingly tranquil conclusion.
Bandcamp: Domkraft (full) / Slomatics (full)
Cardinals Folly have spent their years standing on the shoulders of doom giants, such as Cathedral and Saint Vitus, with their muscular and dry rhythm guitars, and their subtly sorrowful leads. But it’s the profound fixation to fellow Fins, Reverend Bizarre, that drives the band’s traditional doom sound. And, by ‘traditional doom’, I am referring to the heavy riffs, the ritualistic atmosphere, and the passionate, often sermon-like and imperfect vocals that provide the essence of doom. Similarly, the other band on this split, Portland’s Purification, offers an unyielding devotion to the likes of Witchfinder General, Pagan Altar, and - surprise, surprise - Reverend Bizarre. Their brand of doom is at times seasoned with a bit of heavy metal, similar to what The Wizar’d are playing. You have heard it all before, like I have. But I do appreciate, and sometimes even applaud, this staunchness against the evolution and modernization of doom metal. Both bands unashamedly wear their influences on their sleeves, and I cannot find anything here to disapprove of; this split simply brings together two bands that share similar love towards raw and unrefined doom.
Bandcamp: Cardinals Folly (full) / Purification side
Fistula are a band once described by Che as ‘a vile, debaucherous mixture of sludge and hardcore’; while there’s not much hardcore to be heard on this split with Greenmachine, Fistula remain very much vile. “Ritual Possessor” is murky sludge doom, while “An Inevitable Downfall” goes further towards sickening sounds with a predominantly drone/noise approach, assaulting listeners with ugly guitar feedback for minutes on end before upping the ante and dragging listeners through a quagmire of filthy ultra-slow sludge doom riffs. Their aptly named final song, “Scum Jail”, is littered with Trump samples, before Japan’s Greenmachine take over. Compared with the long, slow ordeals that comprise Fistula’s trio of contributions, Greenmachine are very much to the point, with three short, predominantly up-tempo sludgy stoner cuts. Their vibrant solos and desert grooves serve as stark contrast to Fistula, but the likes of “Enemie In The Mood” and “Valley Of Misfortune” are fun jams.
Bandcamp Label (full)
There's maybe a lack of consistency that may be expected from a split release between two one-man post-black-metal bands in which each of the songs is 20 minutes in runtime and at least one of them is a bit too prolific. If any of those raised a red flag, you're not alone, but also I have enjoyed at least one release from each of the two very much, so at least I knew that this had potential. And indeed the tracks are long and they have portions that do drag, but at least they're pretty ambitious. For better or worse. Everything within the production and performance and songwriting varies in the success of the execution so that I can go "Holy shit!" in both ways. Unreqvited's song is a bit more consistent that Sadness (USA)'s, but that does lead to it having less surprises. What I can't fault this album for being, it's being boring, as its ambition leaves me to always be engaged with it, so it avoided the worst possible pitfalls. And in its best moments, this is really enthralling. At this point I'm not even sure if I'd want its issues to have been polished, as the end product still feels beautiful in its unique way.
Bandcamp: Label (full) / Sadness (full) / Unreqvited (full)
There’s two spheres of heavy music that feels particularly inclined towards split releases: stoner/sludge/doom and hard/math/grindcore. Hence, in the same edition that I cover two splits that don’t crack the 10-minute barrier, I also cover a split with a 12-minute track. This isn’t the first time Bog Wizard have appeared in our splits series, with their Four Tales Of The Strange turning up in the Jan-June 2021 edition. This time, they’re joining forces with Bristol’s madcap Froglord for the excellently titled A Frog In The Bog, in which Bog Wizard make two songs about amphibians (with Froglord featuring on “The Frog Lord”), and Froglord making three songs about bogs and wizards (with Bog Wizard featuring on “The Bog Wizard”). Song title tomfoolery aside, this is a decent if unspectacular release. Bog Wizard’s vocals on “Reptilian Death Squad” aren’t the easiest to appreciate, and the song in general does feel a bit muted, but “The Frog Lord” is a nicely gnarly sludge doom track. Froglord’s higher-intensity approach makes his contributions the stronger on the split, with the likes of “The Wizard” featuring some tasty fuzzy grooves.
Bandcamp: Bog Wizard (full) / Froglord (ful)
VHS / Ghetto Ghouls - Cannon Vigilante Of Justice
Horror, especially of the B-movie kind, has been a pretty consistent source of inspiration for metal, mostly death metal but also extending to thrash metal. So here we have the retro horror of VHS and the surf horror of Ghetto Ghouls, a band I previously covered, coming together to, as they put it, "celebrate his majesty, Charles Bronson". All in good fun, obviously. I mean, there's no way to take it seriously anyway, not with that snare sound. Both bands are punky as hell, but VHS is in a bit more of an 80s OSDM mood while Ghetto Ghouls take the crossover thrash approach, both having their tongues firmly up their cheeks.
Bandcamp: VHS (full) / Ghetto Ghouls (full)
Thin / The Wind In The Trees
To give you an impression of what kind of split this is, there’s three full tracks that are 62 seconds or shorter; what would you know, this is -core music. What kind of core, I hear you ask? Well, on “I Don’t Go On Walks Anymore”, the insanity of mathcore meets the violence of grindcore, with Thin opting for all-out assault. However, they’re not a one-trick pony; the clean tones on top of the blasting backdrop that appear in “Feeding Your Best Friend His Last Meal” are just a hint at the unexpected detour into sullen Americana that is “He Was A Friend Of Mine” (perhaps a sequel, based on the respective song titles). On the other side of the split, The Wind In The Trees have no time for such sensibilities; their two tracks fluctuate between ‘manic, fast and aggressive’ and ‘slow, sullen and abrasive’.
Bandcamp: Label (full)
Apostle / Floorless
Blink and you’ll miss it, April’s split featuring Apostle and Floorless (both from Georgia - the state, not the country) doesn’t linger, running for a blistering 8 minutes. Apostle fill the first half with two brief blasts of dark, aggressive blackened hardcore; the pained semi-shout/semi-shrieks have an unrefined rawness to them, but the sledgehammer moments slap hard. Of the three-and-a-half minutes that covers the duration of their two tracks, 30 seconds are dedicated to Greta Thunberg’s UN climate summit; the remainder is mostly unhinged aggression, but “Tor” shows a more measured, atmospheric side to Apostle with a tidy little moody climax. Floorless only feature one track on this split, but “Healing” is longer than Apostle’s efforts combined, and is very much a change in pace, a sinister, insidious doomy industrial cut with some cool beats and a nice dynamic build. The outro of “Tor” is definitely the highlight of this split, but the 8-minute package as a whole is rather decent.
Bandcamp: Apostle (full) / Floorless (full)
We don't necessarily limit ourselves to metal splits, even if those are the easiest to find for a metal website, but this is probably the least metal out of the splits we covered, even if the musicians (most of them anyway) are from the metal sphere. While the first two albums had mostly the singers of bands like Neurosis, Yob, Baroness, and The Obsessed, this one has both Amenra and Cave In appearing as the entire entity. Despite this being the third installment, I'm still haven't invested enough time into listening to actual Townes Van Zandt songs sung by the man himself instead of his songs covered by artists on these tribute albums, despite how the message of "this musician has inspired so many of the musicians you listen to" should've etched that in my mind already. The lyricism alone is enough to place Van Zandt as a cut above the rest in his field, and somehow that fits the dark folk aesthetic that has followed within the acts that he inspired. Marissa Nadler is the least surprising of the three, since this kind of dark folk is her entire modus operandi, so it surprised no one that she did a great job, but I hadn't yet listened to Amenra's acoustic album, so that was a surprise. Cave In's "Nothing" being live threw the flow off a bit, especially since the album alternates between tracks by each artist, but they're the only ones who dared not to be subdued when tackling this sound.
Bandcamp: Label (full)
The Flenser - Send The Pain Below
Send The Pain Below is the odd kind of tribute album that has a bunch of cover songs, with each track being an artist covering a different artist, and to make matters even weirder, there's more bands on Metal Storm among the covered ones than among the covering ones. Here, artists associated with The Flenser label are covering nu metal and adjacent artists, and in some ways a lot of what's in here is metal-but-not-really. I covered a lot of these The Flenser artists in my non-metal series (and the CCs), so I'm at least pretty familiar with everyone involved here, but this still doesn't make this any less weird. Wreck And Reference manage to suck all the horniness from Deftones' "Change" and manage to make it a more spoken-word-ish reverb heavy despair anthem. Chat Pile make Sepultura's "Roots Bloody Roots" nauseatingly sludgy and disorienting and putting a whole lot more anguish in the "Why can't you see this is real" line. Vile Creature turn Kittie's "Paperdoll" into a heavy and slow sludge doom dirge, with a fascinatingly intense climax. Drowse drown Slipknot's "Wait And Bleed" in reverb and echo, making the most unwholesome version of shoegaze. Cremation Lily is the only artist I was unfamiliar with out of the bunch, and it's probably gonna stay that way, but now we have a Soundcloud rap version of Linkin Park's "Falling Away From Me". And closing things off, Midwife give this tribute album its title with a cover of the Chevelle song that's as much of the audio version of a warm comfortable blanket as all of their music. Overall, this is an interesting and weird little album, but I wonder why did they stop at six artists, not really long enough to be a full-length album, when they could've had Have A Nice Life tell us how they did it all for the nookie.
Bandcamp: Label (full)
Anything we miss? What were some of your favorite splits of the year so far?
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