Label: Label 2318
Sometimes with a split, it’s pretty easy to pick out the common theme between the bands, be it geography, similar styles of music, or shared members. This isn’t really one of those splits, as the bands involved approach black metal in very different ways. Hellripper hail from Aberdeen, Scotland, and place the emphasis very much on the metal in black metal – thrashing, full of speed and blistering solos, not far removed from the core 80s inspiration of Venom and the like. By contrast, USBM act Batsheva are far more black, producing music that is much more unsettling and dark. And yet, given the excellence of the music both one-man bands offer, it works. I don’t know how this split came about, but I’m glad it did.
Hellripper have the honour of opening things up, with “Hells Rock N’ Roll” being exactly that. Black thrash guitars and split-second solos abound, with the demonic vocals being the key aspect that makes this black-thrash, rather than simply thrash. It’s hardly revolutionary, but the key aspects that make this kind of music work – energy, passion, a sense of danger – are here in abundance. The cover of “Armed With The End” (originally by Rats Of Reality, of which sole Hellripper member James McBain is also a member) ups the tempo and thrash aspect compared to the punkier original, though there’s still a strong metalpunk feel throughout.
All of which is in great contrast to Batsheva’s side. If Hellripper are looking to Venom and Slayer for inspiration, Batsheva’s side is all about the darkest strands of USBM. The deep, heavy bass drone that gets “Liturgy Of Endless Night” going soon gives way to tortured, distorted screams, taking us clearly in to more avant-garde black metal territory – immensely unsettling and effective – before moving in to “Inter Spinas”. Every bit as horrific as the likes of Leviathan, this is murky, disturbing black metal that could not be in more stark contrast to Hellripper’s side (though it should be said, it is more overtly metal than much of Leviathan’s work). Guitar solos and thrashing tempos have given way to haunted choirs and stop-start rhythms, and whilst this style of black metal is no longer quite as shocking as it was ten years ago, it still sounds revolutionary compared with what has gone before. Closer “Inverted Gravity” should make it clear that if Hellripper’s version of hell is more black and white skeletons and devils headbanging and drinking, Batsheva’s is more like something from the height of renaissance art – soul-searingly horrific, yet strangely compelling.
None of which should be taken as a slight on either band. Rather, it should demonstrate how different the two versions of black metal on offer here are. Some may find the contrast too great, but I’m not one of them. The contrasting styles help to highlight the strong points of both approaches, arguably serving both bands better than if they’d been paired with more similar artists. And for those who may tend to stay away from the more rocking/arty (delete as appropriate) strands of black metal, it may open up new possibilities. Or you could just stick to one side.
Split is set for release on cassette through Label 2318.