Bloody Ritual (Canada)/Entsetzlich/Nevelrijk/Wolfhollow – Total Black Onslaught Of Death

This four-way CDr split is yet another tally in the realm of content vastly exceeding aesthetics and the expectations that are derived from them. I can honestly say that, as dubious as this release seems at first glance, every side is worthwhile on its own terms, and when placed together, you get an excellent seventy minutes of music to enjoy throughout. Hell, I can’t believe myself sometimes that each artist on this CDr manages to be so good (or even great), but somehow each one has a unique and interesting sound that sticks with you and leaves you searching for more music of the same caliber. It’s a very worthwhile split, and its 222 limitation is a shame; the material here really should be heard by significantly more people than that.

Each of the artists on this release come from a different nation and plays a radically different style of black metal. I don’t think there’s a single one that could be described as ‘traditional black metal’; nothing sounds like Darkthrone and none of it ever slips into listless territory. Each band is compelling and engaging in their own right, and I can most certainly see myself seeking out material from every other very soon. Once again, I have to stress how surprised I am to see such a quality split come from such a weird location. What’s the last time you’ve thought of a 222-limited CDr 4-way black metal split as bordering on essential? Probably not in a long while if ever, and I doubt you would think it ever could. But I am telling you now that if you’re interested in hearing what the forefront of modern, raw, underground black metal should sound like, ‘Total Black Onslaught Of Death’ is an instant winner that should be investigated immediately.

Bloody Ritual (Canada):

Having heard this one-man project’s debut demo, I had high hopes for this side of the split, and I wasn’t disappointed. I was a bit perplexed, though, by the radical change in style that the band seems to have experienced between the two releases. While ‘Hail Victory’ was a victorious, fairly uptempo release with a lot of aggressive and strangely psychedelic riffing. Where, then, did this burst of misanthropic, tar-black sludge come from? Yes, the majority of the material here is in a black/doom mold, not the Russian-style black metal of before, and while it’s not a step down in quality at all, it’s most certainly a very different beast. Opening track ‘Into The Forest’ reminds me of bands like Black Mass Of Absu or Senthil, with its oozing riffs and ultra-distorted vocals; a hint of the previous release is present in the lead guitar, but in general, it’s a complete 180 from ‘Hail Victory’. Next up is ‘Gates Of Reality’, a droning dark ambient track of guitar noise in the same vein as ‘Sworn By Blood’ off the demo tape, and Bloody Ritual’s side concludes with a re-recording (or what appears to be; maybe it’s just minus the tape hiss) of that tape’s title track. It’s perhaps even rougher and more powerful than before, with an improved production adding punch to the tracks pounding drums and savage vocals.

Bloody Ritual’s side is very, very strange and very, very good. ‘Into The Forest’ is mind-bendingly brutal black/sludge/doom with an utterly misanthropic and decayed aura about it that I’ve heard in few other locations, and the other two tracks aren’t slouches either. The material here may turn off those really into the ‘Hail Victory’ style, but I feel that Bloody Ritual pulls off this new material very admirably, and ends up with a great, if unexpected, first entry to ‘Total Black Onslaught Of Death’. I really can’t wait to see what the next step for this project is; probably black/grind with a Sunn O))) cover thrown in for good measure. I can’t wait!

Entsetzlich:

Entsetzlich from Australia play a weird type of black/ambient that relies on obscure layers of psychedelic guitars and vocals to sound completely demonic and bizarre. After the vaguely creepy intro track, ‘Tortured By An Unseen Evil (Inhuman Screams Of The Schizophrenic)’ kicks in with some of the thinnest production I’ve ever heard and stumbles its way through three minutes of weird, Mütiilation-style black metal. It makes no sense at all. The style gets consolidated on ‘Undying Visions Of Sadomasochistic Thoughts’, which is like Xasthur on crack cocaine and hallucinogens, with verbose goblin vocals grumbling over the droning, washing, overlapping guitars and pulsing drum machine. The closer of Entsetslich’s side, ‘The Silent Repetitive Murmer Of The Lifeless’, actually has some dynamics, with slightly more intricate drum programming and reverbed, distorted vocals emerging like howls from some long-tortured wraith in an abyss beyond human understanding.

This is probably the weakest side of the split, and it’s still at least pretty interesting. It generally feels like an experiment that the band halfway pulled off, though they sometimes veer off the trail they’re intending to blaze and get distracted by their own lack of refinement in delivery. Nonetheless, it shows a great deal of promise, with a clearly defined style that simply needs to be polished up before it’s truly effective. It’s not a super pleasant listen, but then again, I doubt it was ever intended to be. Think of it as Vrolok minus the coherency; that’s really the only thing that they’re minus, though.

Nevelrijk:

Now for something completely different. In a massive reversal of the previous artist’s style, Dutch artist Nevelrijk seems to play a variety of droning black metal much like a very violent, frantic version of Israel’s Animus. There’s a drum machine set on blast and nothing else (apart from entirely stopping briefly on closer ‘Dodenrijk’), melodic, repetitive tremolo riffs, and a dry, croaking screech style of vocalization, all in line with Animus in general structure. But the riffs are about half as long, twice the speed, and delivered with just as much conviction, but in a very different way; it’s more punk than philosopher, with sole member Nevelgeest screaming and thrashing about with as much passion as he can possibly muster. The melodies are even more openly uplifting than even the most positive moments on ‘Poems For The Aching, Swords For The Infuriated’, and goddamn if they’re not some truly great riffs. Each of the three tracks on Nevelrijk’s side sound essentially the same (though the production of the third is very different from the other two for some reason), and they create a droning, hypnotic, strangely positive and epic atmosphere without even the slightest misstep. The final track is much more misanthropic and traditional than the other two, and the weakest one for it; it just can’t stand up to the other two, which sound like what Nevelrijk was created specifically to do.

Nevelrijk’s side of this split is stunning and the best on this CDr, hands down. This is the perfect sort of music for those that like the idea of Animus but can’t get behind quite how static it is and desire something with a bit more fire. The two major tracks on this side are some of the best the droning style of black metal has ever heard, and I’m tremendously eager to hear more Nevelrijk soon. It’s wonderfully delivered and realized, and if this release were nothing but this side, it would still be a must-buy. This is a band that you have to watch out for in the future, as it’s giving Animus a run for the money when it comes to the droning black metal throne. Truly awe-inspiring.

Wolfhollow:

Rounding off the set here is Wolfhollow, hailing from the USA and contributing a fitting denoument to the release. The first track, ‘Fist Of The North’, is a fairly conventional suicidal-style black metal track that, while capably executed and an enjoyable listen, is nothing very special. The angle changes completely with ‘Box Of Sorrows’, though, a keyboard-only ambient piece composed of repeating neoclassical melodies that are both starkly minimalistic and beautifully and simply composed. It feels like there should be more content to this song, but Wolfhollow instead lets the keyboard stand on its own, leaving its musical body completely naked and emotionally gripping. The final track on ‘Total Black Onslaught Of Death’ is yet another twist: ‘Lachrymarum’, an acoustic-only folk piece that couldn’t be further from the beginning of this split if it tried. It’s majestically composed and a wonderful listen all the way through, and fits as the perfect ending for such a great release.

Wolfhollow appears to be a black metal band that really wants to do ambient. The gap in quality between the first track and the other two is unbelievably wide, and this is a band clearly much more suited towards ambient works than black metal. I await getting to hear a release of exclusively ambient from these guys, as I’m sure that it will be something I would listen to frequently indeed. While the metal isn’t bad, this artist’s talents clearly lie in another, just as beautiful field entirely.

‘Total Black Onslaught Of Death’ takes you on a journey. Shades of misanthropy, insanity, epic triumph, quiet reflection, and every shade of grey in between those are captured vividly by the four artists that compose this split. I could almost say that this appears to be a conceptual release; it seems as though the entirety of the human experience is covered by the music on this disc, and gives a truly rounded portrait of what existence is for each person. Bloody Ritual captures hatred and brutality unlike almost any others in the metal scene today. Entsetslich gives a compelling portrayal of what madness and mental decay is like to those suffering it day by day. Nevelrijk expresses the triumph of man at his greatest moment. And finally, Wolfhollow delves into the heart of what it is to be that man, eternally wandering and questioning his past, present, and future, and never truly finding the answer to who he is or what he is here for.

I need say no more. This innocuous split verges on being a modern classic. Get it now.

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~ by noktorn on November 6, 2007.

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