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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Top 5 Splits of 2012

Originally, I was going to do a top 10 splits but (honestly) I don't think I covered enough splits to justify that with a list that was ten releases long and that I could back without any regrets. I'm gonna try to cover even more splits next year but hopefully these releases will give you a nice window into some really solid smaller releases.

5) Njiqahdda/Njiijn/Funeral Eclipse/Oaks of Bethel - Departures of The Golden Temple [EEE]
Here we go, the second, and much larger, of the two Njiqahdda/Njiijn splits this year, featuring the duo's other projects Funeral Eclipse and Oaks of Bethel as well. Obviously this year hasn't produced quite as much material from the duo as last year, or maybe I just haven't been keeping track - since they went digital it's been harder for me to stay on top of their releases to be honest. But I thought this release was great. Njiqahdda brought three tracks which brought the technicality from last year's The Path of Liberation From Birth and Death but made it work in the context of the duo's newer progressive sludge style. I thought Njiijn brought a pretty solid piece of droning folk/ambient/noise that was among the best stuff I've heard from the project. Oaks of Bethel essentially did their thing, bringing a piece of extended droning blackened doom and the Funeral Eclipse songs were solid and definitely memorable slabs of melodic (slightly-progressive) black metal. Overall I thought it was a strong split and hopefully the duo bring more great work next year.

4) Aenaon/Stielas Storhett [Possession Productions]
Obviously this is the most recent addition to this list. With both Aenaon and Stielas Storhett bringing forth some of their most accessible material to date with each of their respective songs. Aeneon takes the sound established on their debut full-length from last year and hones in on it to create a track that is both technical without being flashy and catchy without sacrificing weirdness. Stielas Storhett moves even further down it's progressive metal hole, leaving behind many of the traditional black metal elements they project was founded on and introducing much more precise riffing and cleaner vocals. Both tracks are absolutely killer.

3) Northless/Light Bearer [Halo of Flies]
I really like Northless and Light Bearer, both bands write really great sludgy pieces of metal and manage to have personalities that stick out from the dozens of other groups in the genre. On here Northless bring down the hammer with two slabs of heavy and, to be fair, quite varied sludge metal tracks that owe just as much to post-hardcore as it does to doom, and it's refreshing to hear so much power and intensity from them. Light Bearer then come in and clean up with their massive track. It's long and it's atmospheric, pretty much everything you'd come to expect from their post-metal genre tag, but the riffs are damn heavy while the softer spaces are sparse and very quiet. They are probably one of the best bands doing the genre right now. If you're a fan of slower forms of metal and you haven't heard this yet, I really don't know what to tell you.

2) Shattered Hymen/Hate Basement/Hadals/Fantasy Island [Tapes of A Neon God]
I'm sure many of you are probably going to be shocked that I placed this split this high on my favorite splits (if you're not totally amazed that it even has a spot in here). I find noise music very hard to really brag about and get excited about really, but this is the sort of thing where I just want to put a stick in it that says, "This is awesome." Each project on here brings a nice helping of harsh noise that is abrasively discordant, in the case of Shattered Hymen, atmospheric and violent for Hadals, very traditional and unabashed in it's direct performance on Fantasy Island's track, and more schizophrenic for Hate Basement. This is the sort of release that inspires me to even listen to the genre and hopefully you get some form of pleasure out of this as well.

1) Horseback/Njiqahdda/Venowl/Cara Neir [Handmade Birds]
This one was probably obvious, but there was no denying the greatness of this release. Each band delivers a some of their most interesting material to date and there's not a track that's worth skipping on here. You may come in for one band, but the others will keep you listening. Jenks Miller delivers one of his most accessible pieces to date while still crafting a track that is interesting and completely hypnotic. Njiqahdda bring their progressive sludge to new heights on their song while Venowl tear down the walls of their black and doom metal surroundings on their track. Then there's Cara Neir who bring some of their blackest material released on their three songs. It's an absolutely essential release from this year and you'd be foolish to pass on it.

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