Label: Eternal Death
Since their launch in 2013, Eternal Death have been not-so quietly building up a reputation as one of the more exciting and reliable labels in the black metal underground. As well as releases from underground veterans – step forward The Meads Of Asphodel and One Master – the label can also pride itself on putting out records from more obscure, but equally thrilling bands. This split release between Circle Of Salt and Taggarik is one such record, containing one track each from these two Canadian black metal bands (both of which are side-projects of the superb Spectral Wounds). Short as it may be, this is nonetheless a wholly satisfying tape, full of ice-cold blasphemous black metal that leaves me wanting more from both bands.
Circle Of Salt take the first side, with the six minutes of “Ulfserkir”. Full of dark, frost-bitten atmosphere and razor-sharp melodies, topped off with raw, hateful vocals, there is something incredibly appealing about this track. It is the kind of black metal that taps in to the ritualistic side of the genre, full of dark promise and threat, without ever coming across as pretentious and willfully obtuse. The subtle keyboard atmospherics in the background add an extra element that is often lacking in this sort of raw-yet-melodic black metal, though there is no danger of them taking any of the edge off the music; instead, they serve to highlight just how powerful the other elements are by contrast. It’s also worth highlighting just how restless the track is; no element ever seems to sit still, with shifts both slight and forceful abound, and it makes the track fly by in superb fashion. Excellent band name, too.
Taggarik‘s offering, “Stalwarts Of Suffering”, is a slightly different beast, but no less impressive. Opening with doom tempos and riffs that hang heavy in the air, it is horrifically oppressive and ominous, right up until the track suddenly explodes in to life around the 2:30 mark. Blasting drums and the most raw of riffs and vocals combine to crushing effect, though what makes the track truly noteworthy are the subtle shifts. No intensity is sacrificed, but such slight shifts in key and tempo ensure the track holds attention over its eight minute duration; and the clean vocals and keyboards, buried beneath the guitars but still able to make their haunting presence felt, give the later parts of the song a more overtly ritualistic feel, before it all comes to a close in an anxious, uncomfortable fashion.
At fourteen minutes, this is the kind of split that is certain to leave the listener wanting more, and I look forward to seeing what these two bands do next (and it’s worth highlighting that this is, as far as I can tell, the first song released by Taggarik). Cold, raw, and hateful, this is superb black metal that stays true to the spirit of old without ever feeling derivative or tired. A superb release.
Split can be ordered through Eternal Death on cassette (limited to 50 copies, in a DVD style case); or streamed and downloaded via Bandcamp, with release due on February 19 2016.