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Splitting Hairs / Hearing Splits (Jul-Dec 2022)

Written by: RaduP, musclassia, Netzach, nikarg, F3ynman2000, Starvynth
Published: 16.01.2023

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 2022 Part 1
SH/HS 2021 Part 2
SH/HS 2021 Part 1

End (USA) / Cult Leader - Gather & Mourn

Two juggernauts of the hardcore underground collide on this vicious release. End (USA) fly right out of the blocks with an onslaught of jagged mathy hardcore riffs, fierce barks, and filthy breakdowns, condensing a lot of violence and a surprising amount of dynamism into fast-moving 3-minute tracks. The ensemble flirt with slightly more melancholic tones in brief snippets, but for the most part these two tracks are abrasive, whether of a crazed or pummelling nature (the latter more so on the trudging “The Host Will Soon Decay”). Cult Leader have a lot to live up to with their songs, but “Ataraxis” makes it immediately clear that they are determined not to be out-furied. Swift-moving transitions between chaotic riffs dominate this first song, but there are occasional moments for slight pause on the lengthier “Long Shadows”, which revels in more spacious, melodic waters midway through, before returning for one last assault. Frenetic and furious, Gather & Mourn is a snapshot into the state of hardcore in the 2020s.

Bandcamp: End (full) / Cult Leader (full)

by musclassia

Split releases can often be ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ blasts of hardcore microsongs; however, they can also be effectively full-length releases; guess which of these two extremes Tchornobog and Abyssal opted for. It’s been a long time waiting for Markov Soroka to deliver more from Tchornobog after impressing so many people with 2017’s eclectic self-titled full-length, with distractions such as Drown seemingly getting in the way. To make up for it, the song he brings to this split, “The Vomiting Choir”, is 24 minutes long, as is Abyssal’s “Antechamber Of The Wakeless Mind”. It’s a 24 minutes that begins with the vomiting of said choir, but while it’s a grotesque introduction, there’s more than vulgarity to be heard on “The Vomiting Choir”, even if this sprawling extreme metal odyssey does feature jarring dissonant death metal and morose death/doom; after a stop-start first half that would pause temporarily, only to begin firing on full blast soon after, Soroka slows things down in the second half for a more atmospheric approach, borrowing from post-metal and even weaving in some almost melodic tones into the dissonance. It’s a hugely impressive return for Tchornobog that will likely leave fans of the debut eager for more; Abyssal are already well-established by this point, with 4 albums already recorded, but with A Beacon In The Husk, their own fans are likely eager to see what mastermind G.D.C. brings to this split. Cavernous death/doom kicks things off, before eventually transitioning into unrelenting dissodeath; despite the extremity, there are cleaner guitar leads thrown in fairly regularly to mix things up, plus some bleak choral chanting later on. Two one-man bands that offer dissonant death metal with a twist have each brought epic offerings to this imposing split, and it’s one very much to savour.

Bandcamp: Tchornobog (full) / Abyssal side

by musclassia

Blood / Incantation - Blood Incantation

"Mom! Can we get Blood Incantation?!" "No, we have Blood / Incantation at home." There's absolutely no chance that this pair-up wasn't done with a similar joke in mind, and funny as it is, it's easy to see how the "coincidence" in the title would seize more of the discussion of the split than the fact that these are two legendary pioneers whose works in extreme metal go as far back as the 80s. Well, 1990 for Incantation. Close enough. But out of these two, Incantation's doomy death metal in one of the most celebrated sounds, spawning an entire generation of clones, whereas Blood's deathgrind is more something whose place historically is something more appreciated in retrospect without necessarily attracting much attention. And this Blood Incantation split does still show a bit of a quality discrepancy between the two, with Blood's song being alright and Incantation's sound still managing to attract some excitement after all these years, and their song being pretty dynamic as it is. Now it would be immensely funny for both of these bands to tour with Blood Incantation.

YouTube: Label sanctioned (full)

by RaduP

Shining is hardly a band that should need an introduction, right? Høstsol (Autumn Sun), however, make their debut release with this split, which contains one song from each band, both of which were also released as singles. It is a newly started band by vocalist Niklas Kvarforth (Shining) and guitarist Cernunnus (Manes), who are backed up by the drummer and bassist of Ajattara. So, a supergroup of sorts, or a side project, if you will. The split opens up in classic hard rocking Shining mode, with “Ugly And Cold” having all the elements you would expect from this band by now: horror-tinged guitar leads, theatric screams and shouts, punchy bass and blast beats and a modern-sounding, searing guitar tone. Much place in the song is given to a scathing guitar solo, and it would not at all have sounded out of place on X: Varg Utan Flock, except perhaps coming off sort of like a B-side from that album.

More interesting, of course, is what Høstsol sound like. The first thing you will notice is the drastically different production between “Ugly And Cold” and “Din Skördetid Är Nu Kommen” (Your Harvest Time Has Now Arrived). The drums are much more subdued, the guitars are warmer (but play some heavily angsty melodies), everything sounds… rawer. Høstsol, it turns out, opts for a hypnotic, energetic, yet still atmospheric approach to black metal. The song takes its sweet time evolving through a spiderweb of lead guitars that later come to be accentuated by synths, turning almost psychedelic towards the end, and dying out into ambience. Niklas remains one of the more interesting vocalists and lyricists in metal, and the melodies have just enough variations-on-a-theme to stay both hooky and slightly progressive. At first, Høstsol didn’t really sound like something I hadn’t heard before, but upon further listens, I realised that what I first heard as “atmospheric” might be better described as “cinematic”. Dramatic, cathartic and cinematic. In fact, Høstsol released their debut album “Länge Leve Döden” (Long Live Death) on Friday the 13th January, so I, for one, know what I’ll be checking out next.

Bandcamp: Shining (full)

by Netzach

Inexistentia is another one that feels more like a full-length at 43 minutes of runtime, with each providing an EPs worth of hellish music. Both bands find a lot of extreme doom common ground, with Grave Upheaval more of a cavernous death kind that borders on droning death, and The Funeral Orchestra more of a dramatic kind of gristly funeral doom. Weird as it is to see Grave Upheaval give titles to their song, something that hasn't happened since the demo, it's still their sound that is more upfront and engaging compared to the relatively subdued sound of The Funeral Orchestra's songs, which is a band I've been known to enjoy. Both sides are great, and work well enough in tandem, especially with the very suggestively apocalyptic cover art, but the lack of dynamics on the second side kinda kills the momentum created by the first half.

Bandcamp: Grave Upheaval side / The Funeral Orchestra side

by RaduP

Lucifer's Fall / Eldritch Rites - Graveyard Rites

Graveyard Rites is a split EP from Australia’s traditional doom acts Lucifer's Fall and Eldritch Rites. If you like dirty old, blue collar doom, this split is for you, and it is over 37 minutes of dark and heavy riffs, and some great solos. Lucifer's Fall is clearly the most accomplished band; all three songs are taken from the sessions of their latest LP, III - From The Deep, and they are simply perfect. The riffs of “The Mesmeriser”, the solos of “The Furthest Shore”, and the dual personality of “The Asylum / Graveyard Rising” will have you searching for the back catalogue of the band, if you don’t know them already. Eldritch Rites, on the other hand, sound more like a band whose members love jamming some doom tunes in the rehearsal studio, and they have both a slow and ominous side, as well as a raw, faster, and unhinged one.

Bandcamp: Lucifer’s Fall (full) / Eldritch Rites (full)

by nikarg

The news hit recently of Malignant Altar deciding to call it quits, which is pretty weird for a band that has only been around for a few years and has only one album out. Russia's Gosudar are also a band that's only shortly been around and with only one full-length out, so I can see why these two would be a good match for one another, as each of their only albums were fairly well received without necessarily being massive hits. I have had more of an affinity for Gosudar's sound out of the two, though both bands played a pretty safe take on doomy death, one that's pretty well done in terms of atmosphere and dynamics but that's didn't stand out considering how many similar releases came out lately. In this split, it is Gosudar's ten minute opener "Mortified Transformation" that really hits it home the hardest in terms of dynamics and atmosphere, and as much as I was indifferent to them, Malignant Altar's side still fails to keep me engaged. As a whole it feels like Gosudar works better in the slower tempos, while Malignant Altar worked better in the faster ones.

Bandcamp: Label (full)

by RaduP

Wraith / Graveripper / Black Knife / Unholy Night - Faster Than The Fucking Devil

The devil is fast, but this 4-way split is fucking faster. Four bands spreading hot and blasphemous thrash metal with vintage heaviness, searing speed, and an evil punk vibe for those of you loving the sound of Motörhead, Venom, Deströyer 666, Midnight… you get the point. These outlaws from the underground give a hammering and unapologetic lesson in aggression and fun with a split, released by Wise Blood Records, that doesn’t let up from beginning to end. If you enjoy being assaulted by black thrash that has chainsaw riffs and warmongering drums, Faster Than The Fucking Devil was made for you. Before hearing this split, I only knew -and very much enjoyed- Wraith, but now I have to say that Graveripper (also from Indiana) have a new fan too, because “Night Frozen Black” is my favourite track here. Black Knife and Unholy Night are kicking serious ass and hammering out devilish metal that is pure fire as well, so crank this up and start running because there is a horse-riding devil on the cover and that devil is after you.

Bandcamp: Label (full)

by nikarg

It may not be the most popular time to be a Russian band, but two groups from Saint Petersburg join forces here, stating that they wish to oppose placing cultural borders between Russia and the rest of the world despite the current circumstances; good luck to them with that. Each of Wowod and Somn contributes a trio of songs to this split; in the case of Wowod, it is a trilogy titled “Obrechenie” (which translates to ‘doom’), which tells a story of the lack of forgiveness in mankind and its resulting inevitable collapse. An ambient atmospheric opening is followed by a short, pounding sludge/post-metal part 1 and an expansive part 2, with atmospheric drums, mixed vocals, tasty dynamic builds and spacey atmospheres; it’s a really nice triumvirate of songs. Somn also operate within the realm of post-metal, although with blasts and shrieks lurking in their locker; “Fracture” has both black metal and post-hardcore inclinations, while “Reform” gradually moves from sedate begins to frantic conclusions, layering on the post-rock melancholia. It’s a really solid ensemble of songs delivered by these two bands, one that spans a good amount of the post-metal spectrum in a very tasteful manner.

Bandcamp: Wowod (full) / Somn (full)

by musclassia

Hyperdontia / Septage

I've covered Hyperdontia's splits before, though ironically not their albums, even if I covered some albums by their peers in the incestuous Danish OSDM scene. Septage is a band I hadn't heard of before, but they're still in the demo phase, yet to release a full-length. This one is a pretty shorty split, not even hitting 10 minutes of runtime, with it being split very evenly between the two bands. The solo in Hyperdontia's song has no excuse to be as good as it is, which already makes an immense impression to someone who just had to review a load of death metal splits. Septage were a bit of a different surprise, with their sound more of a goregrind sound, complete with incomprehensibly low gurgles over riffs that are granted more in the OSDM territory. For a split this rotten and mortifying, that's a very fitting cover art, and I'll be on the lookout for more Septage.

Bandcamp: Hyperdontia side / Septage side

by RaduP

Sâver / Frøkedal

This is not Sâver’s first appearance in Splitting Hairs And Hearing Splits; the last music that the band released was Emerald, the hefty EP they put together with Psychonaut. With the song contributed by each band to Emerald exceeding 15 minutes, it was a sprawler of a release; this next split is something rather different. Joining forces with fellow Norwegian Anne Lise Frøkedal, the two artists exchange songs and cover the other’s in their own style. The first to attempt this are Sâver, whose spin on Frøkedal’s atmospheric folk sees them eschew harsh vocals and instead swim in more ambient post-rock waters. It’s a nice cover, but a fairly logical interpretation to make of the original; Frøkedal’s task is rather more ambitious, with the song of choice “I, Vanish” very much within the realm of post-metal. What Frøkedal produces is probably borderline unrecognizable to anyone who isn’t intensely familiar with the original, but the delicate acoustics, vocal harmonies and subtle strings makes for a charming song nonetheless.

Bandcamp: Sâver (full)

by musclassia

Angrrsth / Czort - W Czeluść

Are you ready to plunge into fiery depths? Count on these two Polish bands to take you there with W Czeluść - "Into The Abyss". Despite both bands being relatively new — with only one LP for Angrrsth and two LPs for Czort — they not only display excellent musical mastery on this split but also provide characteristics that stand out among the sea of modern black metal acts. Angrrsth choose a very dissonant approach, morphing their music into a malicious maelstrom that assaults the eardrums and ignites the heart. A guest vocalist producing hair-raising screams at the end of the first track adds to this uniquely hellish atmosphere. In contrast, Czort are not as chaotic as Angrrsth, opting more for mid-tempo, melodic riffing and a singer that evokes images of melancholy and anguish with his bittersweet voice. Overall, both bands are able to convey emotional, visceral music in two very distinctive, yet equally mesmerizing ways. Czort employ catchy themes to lift the spirit and sombre melodies to drown you in sorrow, while Angrrsth unleash raucous, raging hymns to strike at your very soul. Descend into the abyss and meet "mroczny ojcze wymiarów", dark father of dimensions.

Bandcamp: Label (Full) / Angrrsth (Full) / Czort's side

by F3ynman2000

Disinter (USA) / Disinter (PER) - Alliance Of Death

Now for a split whose concept is as funny as that Blood / Incantation one, we have a split gathering two bands of the same name, a thing that hasn't happened since that dual Manes split (but that was even funnier because both bands were from the same country). I admit I hadn't heard of either Disinters before this split, and this being a more chunky split closer to a full-length at 37 minutes of runtime, both bands make a pretty good case for themselves. Both bands have been around since the early-to-mid 90s, so there's quite some history to each of them. The USians have some brutal death metal tinges a la Immolation, but with plenty of thrashy and doomy moments, and some surprisingly melodic dynamics and great production. The Peruvians are much rawer comparatively both on the production and songwriting front, so there's quite some contrast when the split shifts from one Disinter to another (and I'm sure which one I prefer), but they can hold their own regardless.

Bandcamp: Label (full)

by RaduP

Grinning God / Spider God

I've been following Spider God all 2022 since they released a black metal album of pop covers, and have been curious ever since how they'd capitalize on that pop/black metal blend when moving back to original material. I was lukewarm to the full-length they made afterwards, but in the meantime they also relaased this split with a similarly named band. Grinning God is more of a goth rock outfit, so there is a bit of a stylistic difference, but on this split especially the two bands find common ground. Not only are both sides inspired by Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, but each of the artists does guest vocals on the other's side, providing a blackened edge to Grinning God's deathrock and some melodic cleans to Spider God's already melodic black metal. Strangely enough, Spider God's material here is more engaging that what ended up on the full length, while Grinning God's only makes me more anxious to hear that project in a full-length stage.

Bandcamp: Label (full) / Spider God side / Grinning God side

by RaduP

Opium Lord / Under

I discovered Under when they played (alongside Atvm, who also feature this month) in support of Kurokuma towards the start of 2022, and I was intrigued by their quirky, unconventional take on sludge. On this APF Records release, they contribute one song; the other is brought by a more conventional sludge group, Opium Lord. Still, conventional isn’t necessarily a negative, and on “Sherpa”, Opium Lord demonstrate the virtues of sludge doom, trudging along with filthy guitar tones, nasty riffs, and harsh rasps, but also with some more melodic guitar leads added on top to expand the sonic palette. Under’s song here is one that I recognize from that Kurokuma show, for its quirkiness if nothing else; “The Ref” is a jagged, grungy trudge of a song defined by contorted guitarwork and eerie bass meanderings, all of which are occasionally punctuated by the classic football refrain, “the referee’s a ---“. I’ll be honest, it’s a weird song, but it’s a curious oddity, and one that may well hold appeal for fans of the likes of Melvins.

Bandcamp: Label (full)

by musclassia

Perilaxe Occlusion / Fumes / Celestial Sanctuary / Thorn - Absolute Convergence

Absolute Convergence is a four-way split for fans of undiluted, filthy, putrid and old school-loving death metal. All four of these bands deliver a single track each that is absolutely amazing in its own way, and kind of embodies different takes of the death metal sound. It begins with Perilaxe Occlusion, who were among the very promising underground bands, but unfortunately they have already announced that they're breaking up in 2023 and that they will have one more release, which I believe will be a compilation of all their works. “Serrated Tesselation” is a slightly faster track than what they have been usually doing, but it is still absolutely crushing. Fumes deliver an outstanding slab of total oppressiveness, and “Monolith” is my favourite track on this split. The vocals are cavernous in an otherworldly way, the music is brutal, yet technical and progressive, and the bass is absolutely mind-bending. Celestial Sanctuary have a knack for Spiritual Healing-era Death on “Trapped Within The Rank Membrane”, which is always a winner. Finally, Thorn deliver some primitive, ugly, and brooding doom death metal with “Pythonissam” to wrap things up. This split is killer and a must-listen for any death metal fan.

Bandcamp: Label 1 (full) / Label 2 (full)

by nikarg

First Fragment / Andrew Lee's Heavy Metal Shrapnels - First Fragment VS Heavy Metal Shrapnel

One of the more oddball splits from this month, Canadian tech/prog-death wizards First Fragment contribute an instrumental version of “Solus” from 2021’s Gloire Éternelle to First Fragment VS Heavy Metal Shrapnel. If you’ve heard Gloire Éternelle, you’ll remember that it is highly intricate tech-death, and “Solus” remains as such in instrumental form; arguably in instrumental form, the neoclassical guitar flamboyance draws one’s focus even more sharply. This may be why this song has appeared on a split alongside a contribution from Andrew Lee's Heavy Metal Shrapnel, whose song “Death’s Embrace” is, as the band name suggests, in the heavy metal genre; the presence of Mark Boals (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen) on vocals makes this very clear. However, Heavy Metal Shrapnel does have an Yngwie-esque neoclassical edge to Andrew Lee’s guitarwork, and First Fragment’s own Phil Tougas has previously guested on the Heavy Metal Shrapnel debut, so perhaps there is some basis to the two acts joining forces here. Realistically though, the two songs are musically rather far apart, so there is no guarantee that liking one track will mean anything when it comes to liking the other; if you like shred-heavy trad heavy metal that’s produced like the classic trad heavy albums, and if you also like virtuosic tech-death, this split could be perfect for you.

Bandcamp: Heavy Metal Shrapnel side

by musclassia

Atvm / Penance Stare - The Split

Atvm managed to bag themselves a spot on the Transcending Obscurity roster with their debut full-length, Famine, Putrid And Fucking Endless, which Nik so warmly reviewed back in 2021. For their first release of note since joining Transcending Obscurity, Atvm have joined forces with British two-piece Penance Stare. Atvm’s two entries here are the kind of manic, unpredictable proggy death metal that lit up their debut album, with manic, at-times seemingly lyricless vocals rambling over fierce riffs both fast and slower. Penance Stare also can go faster and slower, but their music is of more of a blackened hardcore persuasion, frequently locking into grim, intensely atmospheric grooves that can at the right moment pull back to cleaner sounds or push the extremity forwards. The two bands are somewhat distinct stylistically, but both bring their A-game to this tasty little release.

Bandcamp: Penance Stare (full) / Atvm (full)

by musclassia

This is a more classic one-song-a-side kind of split, with Wytch Hazel and Spell both being pretty good representatives of a sound in between hard rock and heavy metal. Though Wytch Hazel is the one of the two that is closer to hard rock, they've always stood out by having a retro sound that is merged with a nice touch of folk rock, so it's ironic hearing even more folk from Spell's song on this one. But I guess that makes sense since it's a cover of a Strawbs song. I was already a pretty big Wytch Hazel fan, so them delivering was not surprising, but Spell, who I've been more ambivalent to before, were the ones who surprised me most as a result. Still, it's a short enough offering that it breezes by, but it's a nice contrast with all the extremity here to have something that's barely bordering on metal.

Bandcamp: Label (full)

by RaduP

Katla (DEN) / Czar - Overdoser

Two bands from Copenhagen team up for a hefty journey through sludge territory, each offering an approach from markedly different regions within said territory. Katla (DEN) (not to be confused with Katla.), have actually appeared in Clandestine Cuts not once, but twice with their Warmongering Luciferians EPs. Both records featured dirty, doomy, stoner-tinged sludge, and so do their songs on Overdoser, which offer dense guitar tones and tasty swinging grooves in abundance. There’s no great innovations to be heard here, even if 11-minute closer “Sisyfos” is surprisingly dynamic, but honestly it’s never unpleasant to hear loud dirty sludge riffs like these; Katla (DEN)’s songs here are a lot of fun. Sludge is often described as a fusion of hardcore and doom metal; if Katla (DEN) bring the doom, Czar bring the hardcore, as songs such as “Mørke” pair sweet swinging sludge grooves with more violent abrasive attacks. Despite the aggression that can be heard here, Czar aren’t averse to weaving in some lighter tones to help broaden the horizons of the songs on Overdoser; “Døder Er Din” in particular is willing to incorporate hints of melody as it flirts with post-metal in portions. It’s long for a split, but Overdoser isn’t excessive by any means, and the two bands come together very nicely.

Bandcamp: Katla side / Czar side

by musclassia

Ballard / God's Funeral - Compartido Doce Pulgadas A Una Cara

With a few exceptions such as the long-established Helevorn, Evadne and Horn Of The Rhino, or the relative newcomers Ikarie, sun-kissed Spain has never stood out with a particularly large or very successful doom metal scene, but this is all the more reason to introduce two representatives of the Spanish underground who have been coming up with regular releases for several years now. Besides their love for the rather slow but all the more thick and heavy style of metal, both bands share a very similar story in terms of the timing of their previous releases. Both bands recorded a first demo in 2017 and put out various EPs and split EPs in the following years, but have so far left out the next logical step - recording a full-length album.

The pragmatically titled joint split EP Compartido Doce Pulgadas A Una Cara ("shared 12 inches, single-sided") features one overlong song each, and the Basques of Ballard kick things off with the 12-minute track "Hirurogeita Hamazazpi" (Basque for "seventy-seven"). What the number 77 is all about remains unclear due to the lack of lyrics, but at least the last four minutes are dedicated to a very tangible, real subject matter: excerpts from an old interview with the American girl Beth Thomas, musically accompanied by a drone-y bass, heavily distorted guitars and menacing drums. Beth, who was 6 years old at the time of the interview with a therapist, describes with an emotionless voice, among other horrifying things, concrete intentions to murder her adoptive parents and confesses the mutilation of her brother's genitals with pins. Needless to say, this is one of the most disturbing interviews of all time, but it contributes a lot to the fact that the doom/sludge metal of the three-piece from Bilbao can build up a tremendous intensity. The contribution of God's Funeral from Tarragona sounds no less dramatic; especially the mournful sounds of the violin ensure that the song "Deessa Dels Cims" of the four Catalans quickly turns into a real death/doom monster that even My Dying Bride could not have surpassed in their long gone heyday.

God's Funeral (full) | Ballard (full)

by Starvynth

Anything we miss? What were some of your favorite splits of the year so far?


Comments: 3   Visited by: 31 users
17.01.2023 - 13:36

Any love for any of these by anyone?
17.01.2023 - 15:24

Written by nikarg on 17.01.2023 at 13:36

Any love for any of these by anyone?

There's love for the End/Cult Leader, Wowod/Somn and Tchornobog/Abyssal ones from me at least, thought there were some really good ones here this month
17.01.2023 - 16:08
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Written by nikarg on 17.01.2023 at 13:36

Any love for any of these by anyone?

Yes, I wish it was monthly feature
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''
I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing

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