Label: Broken Limbs Recordings
Guilt And His Reflection is a bit more ambitious than most splits. Whereas the majority of split records have their halves constructed in isolation, and might as well be two separate EPs pressed on a single physical record, this split between Cara Neir and Wildspeaker sees the bands tackle a unified concept. In fact, it might be the first ‘concept split album’ I’ve come across. Tackling the psychological horror of cannibalism in a post-apocalyptic scenario, Guilt And His Reflection is an intriguing enough idea; but musically, it’s also one of the strongest splits I’ve heard in some time, with both bands really surpassing themselves, making this one of the stand-out blackened crust releases of the year.
Arlington, Texas duo Cara Neir take the first side. Now, I have to confess, I’ve never really got in to this band the way I expected to previously. I’m not sure why, but previous records like Stagnant Perceptions never really stayed with me in the long-run. Cara Neir’s side of Guilt And His Reflection sees me finally understand why so many rate this band so highly, though. Maybe it’s the vastly improved production, or maybe the songs are simply that much stronger compared with previous efforts – I’m not sure exactly. But, whatever the reason, this can be marked as the point where I realise that the duo’s brand of crust is right up there with the best of the style, and arguably marks a new direction the genre could move in. There’s as much of a Dischord and SST Records feel to these songs as there is anything else, with an intelligent, yet passionate drive to them. There’s plenty of intensity and fury though, as evidenced by the hyper-speed sections on tracks like “Life From Inside Your Pocket.” It reaches its apex on “Ego Eats Man”, arguably the best song on the split, which makes me think of a crust version of Jawbox more than anything else. It’s not a comparison I ever expected to make, but god-damn does it ever work, and much to my surprise, Cara Neir’s side of the split ends up being one of the more adventurous, successful, and oddly (given the theme) enjoyable things I’ve heard this year.
By contrast, Wildspeaker might run the risk of coming across as a bit ordinary, or possibly even boring. That wouldn’t just be an unkind comparison, though – it would also be deeply inaccurate. The Texan band’s brand of blackened crust is much more muscular, far more violent and vicious, with a more ‘typical’ sound, full of blasting drums, whirlwind riffs, and razor-sharp tremolo-picked leads, topped off with Natalie’s furiously intense vocals. Whereas Cara Neir are finding ways to add light to crust’s palette, Wildspeaker are much more about the different shades of darkness that can be explored. Combined with song titles such as “Hunt The Weak” and “First Taste Of Flesh”, it makes their side of the split (and hence, of the story) feel like the point at which the horror of the protagonist’s situation and what he has had to do to survive really come to the fore; though there is a sense of hope and optimism in closing track “His Reflection”, with its almost Deafheaven-esque soaring melodies and chord progressions. It’s a great way of telling the story, and it shouldn’t be overlooked just how good Wildspeaker’s blackened crust is, either. They’re among the best bands of the style out there, playing with real passion and talent, and given that they’ve been together for less than three years and are already making music with this confidence and skill, it’s rather exciting to consider just how good their future might be.
Such thoughts aside, Guilt And His Reflection still stands as one of the most engaging, exciting records I’ve had come my way this year, split release or otherwise. Both Cara Neir and Wildspeaker are on fine form, delivering some of their best material, and it’s a genuine delight to hear a split with two sides that are both musically varied, and work together so well.