It’s quite remarkable just how many different aspects of music fall under the broad spectrum of extreme metal. The split cassette between US black metal band Barghest and Californian death/doom/black act Teeth demonstrates. Both bands are undeniably extreme, serving up vicious, intense pieces of sonic devastation; but the way they go about doing so are both very different. It’s a mark of how good both acts are that their different sounds sit well with and compliment one another, making this release from CVLT Nation’s music label something very exciting indeed.
Barghest take the first side with four tracks of snarling, punishing black metal. After the rain-and-howling-wolves intro, the music comes crashing in with absolutely no warning or apology. The power of the music is immediately apparent, with razor-sharp riffs propelled forward by merciless drumming and malicious vocals, all topped off with a delightfully raw production. It’s all sharp edges and spikes, assaulting your ears at every opportunity with everything pushed in to the red. And yet, it never comes across as unlistenable or excessively crude, with plenty of melody being present in the riffs and movements. The way it balances melody and malevolence is quite striking, and makes me think of Horna, even if Barghest don’t sound like them. Rather, there’s an appreciation of the duality that makes black metal so thrilling, and makes their side of the split an energetic, punishing ride. “The Nameless Tongue” even manages to throw in some genuinely sinister moments, which is very welcome.
Teeth’s side stands in marked contrast to Barghest’s offerings. “The Hell That Whispers In My Bones” is an opus over twenty minutes long, largely moving at a much more glacial pace, weighty and full of the promise of danger. This is a perfect distillation of the spirit of blackened doom, and even during those sections where the tempo is increased, there is still that ominous, rumbling feeling that something truly terrible (in the best possible way) is coming. This is only enhanced by the post-metal leaning sections, as around the 6:45 mark, which possess a similar sense of foreboding and grace as the first two Cult Of Luna albums did. Likewise, the moments when Teeth up the tempo and introduce more intense drumming and dizzying guitar movements are incredibly punishing, and help ensure their side of the split never risks stagnating. It may not be an easy listen – what worthwhile blackened doom track is? – but it’s very worthwhile.
Notably, for a split release, neither side comes across as ‘better’. Instead, they present two different sides of extreme metal, diverse in sound but united in spirit, and it’s that which helps ensure this tape is a winner, and worthy of a place in your collection.
Split is available on cassette via the grimCVLT bandcamp page, where it can also be streamed.