Label: Eternal Death
Well, this was one I didn’t really know what to expect from, other than in the broadest sense. The Meads Of Asphodel are at the forefront of truly experimental and progressive metal bands, just about staying within the realms of black metal whilst simultaneously mocking the conventions of the genre. Meanwhile, Tjolgtar long ago moved on from pure black metal, embracing instead a style that owes as much to classic, garage, and progressive rock as it does to anything kvlt. So, without knowing exactly what the record would sound like, I knew it was going to be something different to the norm, and that’s exactly how it turned out to be. The good news is, Taste The Divine Wrath ends up being not just a split between two challenging bands, but also a worthwhile record in its own right.
The Meads Of Asphodel begin things with the gloriously titled “An Ebullient Prelude To A Loathsome End”, featuring the keyboard talents of Mirai Kawashima of Sigh. Bombastic, dramatic, and utterly OTT, its 43 seconds are sure to send anyone looking for the kvlt, or even the moderately restrained, running for their crypt. Of the following four tracks, “Chidiock Tichborne”, referencing Tichborne’s Elegy, comes closest to typical black metal for much of its duration, but still features a spoken word section and cinematic female backing vocals. “Balthasar Gerard” opens with spoken word and sound effects, before moving on to something almost soothing, with acoustic guitars and strong, bright melodies that the harsh vocals do not detract from. It owes almost nothing to black metal, being much closer to classic and progressive rock, yet it’s a strong, enjoyable song. Final contribution “Infidel” moves from technical extreme metal, to progressive, spacious verses, back to extreme metal, and then to a shimmering chorus where the musical lightness is at odds with the lyrics. The song rarely sits still for more than a moment, and it’s an absolute joy, and for my money the strongest song The Meads Of Aspohodel contribute to the split. When the song shifts from extremity to a spacious guitar solo and technical, jazzy drumming towards the end, it is absolutely glorious.
The Meads are well known for surprises though, and Taste The Divine Wrath is no different. Third track “You’ve Got The Hate” is a fairly straight re-working of “You’ve Got The Love“, musically doing little to alter the structure of much of the original aside from adding metal guitars and prog-rock keyboards, though the guitar solo at the conclusion is pretty killer.The lyrics have, as may be expected from the title, been rewritten to be full of violence and nihilism. It’s the kind of song from the band that brings to mind Crass; not in sound, but in the way both bands gleefully challenge and play with convention. And given the way The Meads have referenced Crass before, I doubt it’s a comparison they’d object to. As for whether “You’ve Got The Hate” is a successful track, well, it depends on just how far you buy in to the twisted vision of metal that the band present. Some will adore it; most will hate it, just by virtue of its very existence. Either way, I can’t imagine anyone being put off Taste The Divine Wrath by this song who wouldn’t be put off by the rest of the band’s work. After all, it’s not the first time they’ve done this kind of thing.
Tjolgtar, by comparison, come across as almost being straight-forward. That’s slightly unfair though, as the one-man band have always been one to play by their own rules. Taste The Divine Wrath offers four songs over one continuous track that continue in the style of combining cold, raw black metal with classic rock – think Sabbath, Priest, Led Zep, and so on. Sound-wise, the raw production is absolutely perfect, giving the music a real sense of energy and grit. The way that rocking leads, riffs, and solos suddenly twist in to black metal brutality on “The Fifth Mass And Her Works” is sublime, and even more impressive for the way that it never feels jarring but instead keeps the track flowing. The use of xylophone on “Near You Always” creates an unsettling feel, and is further evidence that Tjolgtar do not care for what other people think black metal should sound like; as are the keys towards the end of “A Goat In The Wood” that sound almost light. They soon give way to riffs that fall somewhere between Celtic Frost and early Bathory on “Winter Research”, and the contrast between the two passages benefits them both greatly. The track ends with a tabloid style news report about a Satanic cult, full of murder, sacrifice, and abuse. It’s the only mis-step on Tjolgtar’s side for me, as up until then this side of Taste The Divine Wrath had been excellent, but it means it ends in a rather unsatisfying manner. Even so, it shouldn’t take away from just how enjoyable the preceding music has been; there are more impressive riffs, leads, and passages during these eighteen minutes than many bands manage in their entire careers.
Taste The Divine Wrath was always expected to go down as one of the more challenging, creative releases under the broad spectrum of black metal in 2015, and that’s exactly how it turned out to be. To say that such progressive, forward-thinking music is what was expected is to sell both The Meads Of Asphodel and Tjolgtjar short, as their willingness to take creative risks is worthy of praise; even more so considering how successful they mostly are. Hardly straight-forward and simple, but then, most worthwhile art never is.