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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

2012 - Splits: Part I

This is going to be the first in a series of reviews dedicated to split albums that are coming out. I have unwittingly come upon quite a few splits this year that are quite interesting and instead of posting individual reviews which would probably end up sounding repititive if I did one for each album, I'm just going to compile three albums at a time and talk about them here. Hope you enjoy! (Remember that splits are graded from 1-8)

                         Shyy/... [Dot Dot Dot] - The Path Toward Forgetfulness (2012)
Band: Shyy/... [Dot Dot Dot]
Country: São Paulo, Brazil/Parma, Italy
Style: Depressive Black Metal/Blackgaze
Label: Pest Productions

As much as people might not like to hear it, I'd put Shyy in the same sort of category as a group like Crooked Necks in the sense that if you removed the shrieked vocals from the equation, pretty much all the black metal would be removed from this band. Granted, Shyy aren't as interesting as a band like Crooked Necks, and there is definitely more of a blackgaze element to Shyy, but the two aren't totally dissimilar from each other. This is actually the first new material heard since the band's debut on The World Comes to An End In The End of A Journey split. The two songs they contributed were some of the most well received on that split and happened to show a band that was, at the time, closer to being straight-up shoegaze with almost no black metal whatsoever, blackgaze before it really blew up. The three songs they present on here aren't all that different from what they were doing back on that split above, except that the time gap between the new material and their old has made the songs on here feel rather uninspired in comparison to how I think they might have sounded if they were released a few years back. I mean, they're not bad songs, but they're not really anything to get worked up over.
Speaking as someone who had once listened to ... [Dot Dot Dot]'s first EP, Somebody Save Me, I can tell you that the band has significantly improved. That EP was rather lackluster depressive black metal that was actually quite poor and unoriginal. I even remember the group's Joy Division cover being less than stellar as well, but the three songs they've contributed to this split are far better than I ever expected. I'll admit that I didn't listen to the split they were on with Dead and Vidharr, so I don't know if there was more of a middle ground between their depressive sounding EP and the more post-rock and shoegaze inflected material on here, but I might actually have to go and try and listen to that material to see if it's up to par with these three tracks. Sonically, while it really isn't anything you haven't heard before from a blackgaze/post-black metal group, I actually think that the band have a pretty decent grasp on songwriting, with Ascending to The Night Sky proving to actually be quite memorable. I'm not the only one who's thought this but it's still worth mentioning, ... [Dot Dot Dot] are the standout on here and it's quite surprising how good their material is.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Her, Her Landscape, Ascending to The Night Sky

                                                 Trist/Lonesummer - Split (2012)
Band: Trist/Lonesummer
Country: Olomouc, Czech Republic/Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Style: Depressive Black Metal/Post-Rock
Label: Ars Magna

A couple of years back I went through a whole depressive black metal phase and was pretty much enamored with the sound of the genre (though I don't think I would have ever called it my favorite sound). Obviously, if you're a newbie to any genre you start out looking into the biggest bands within the genre, so that's what I did and that's how I originally found Trist. Personally, I've always been a bit more preferable towards Kim's project Hypothermia when it comes to the depressive sub-genre, but Trist is well known for being one of the few projects that manages to convey depression within his music in an authentic way. The track he contributes is the first new material he's released in a couple of years (from what I heard he took a break to take care of some health issues), but it sounds revitalized. I have to say that within this twenty minute long piece, Trist sounds more energetic and aggressive than I've ever heard him. I mean, if you've listened to Trist's previous works, you'll find plenty that recalls his older material as well, but it's nice to hear something that is a bit more engaging from him.
The five tracks contributed from Lonesummer on the other hand are far more abrupt and graspable. Since three of the five don't even cross the three minute barrier, you can pretty much assume that these tracks are pretty straightforward, which they are. While Lonesummer's roots are certainly based in raw black metal, to the extent it's even been called black noise by some, only the first track, Regrettably, Our Harvest Never Grew, recalls the project's black metal background. The other four tracks continue on the path into post-rock and screamo territory that the project has been evolving towards for a while now. The melodic aspects aren't as immediate as those found on the project's last full-length, There Are Few Tomorrows For Feeding Our Worries, but are still quite memorable. The sound is still undeniably raw, but nowhere near as polarizing and ear-piercing as on early recordings.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: No More Bonfires, Mundane Dreams About Flash Floods

                                   Starve/Terzij de Horde - A Chosen Hollow (2012)
Band: Starve/Terzij de Horde
Country: Holland, Netherlands/Utrecht, Netherlands
Style: Sludge Metal/Post-Black Metal
Label: Badger

I was unfamiliar with Starve before first checking out this split, as apparently a lot of people were. The band's brand of stoner sludge is quite interesting in the sense that they actually manage to channel some emotion into it while still bringing out the now standardized southern grooves. They still have that sort of punk edge to them that makes these songs feel more visceral than your standardized southern stoner band. I'll admit that it their style isn't really one that I'm all that fond of, but for what it is, I can at least recognize that it's a lot more interesting than a lot of other stoner-esque groups I've heard in the last couple of years. I can certainly appreciate the raw power put into a song like Grace In Solitude where the whole thing is just a heavy, bludgeoning piece of sludge that far exceeds anything I've heard this year from the entire genre.
Terzij de Horde made quite an impression when they released their debut EP, A Rage of Rapture Against The Dying of The Light, back in 2010. Their fusion of black metal with styles like post-hardcore, crust punk, screamo, and post-rock really brought something fresh to the table. Since then, fans have waited anxiously to see what the band would release next, and nearly two years later we have a single new song (that's not meant to be a complaint). Within this thirteen minute epic, we have the band showing their range from the soft and melodic to the intense and brutal within a single track. It's one of those songs that really defines what a band is, and while that's not always a good thing, in this case it most certainly is.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Grace In Solitude, A Chosen Hollow

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