Regular readers will know that I hold Eternal Death Records in high regard, considering them to be one of the most consistent and discerning bastions of underground extreme metal in the US. You’ll also know that I consider Eternal Death regulars One Master to be one of the most under-rated bands in modern USBM, with their ferocious brand of black metal being consistently devastating. Following hot on the heels of their excellent full-length, Lycanthropic Burrowing, comes a new split release with Ninhursag, a co-release with Red River Family Records, that sees One Master unleash some of their most ferocious music yet; whilst Ninhursag’s take on black metal is more other-worldly and cold, yet no less effective for it.
One Master take the first side, with two tracks. The songs, ‘Stormdivision’ and ‘Ironspirit’ are more direct and forceful than those on recent records, each one being a five minute blast of utter fury and rage. Previous releases from One Master were hardly short on intensity or violence, but after a short introduction, those aspects of their sound are really ramped up here, and pushed to the fore with excellent results. There’s an almost punk like energy throughout, and a directness that is hard to resist. The songs aren’t solely built on aggression though, as there’s a melodic edge to them that recalls the likes of Horna, and it’s this aspect which helps keep One Master’s side interesting even after the initial rush of aggressive excitement has began to fade.
By contrast, Ninhursag are a very different proposition. Whilst the production of One Master’s side is red-raw, the four tracks from Ninhursag have a much colder atmosphere, that brings to mind the ritual occultism of Beherit, along with a more demo-esque rawness. The bass is unusually prominent in the mix for black metal, and along with the buzzing guitars and almost inhuman vocals, it helps contribute to this unusual, other-worldly feel. First track ‘Uva Ursa’ is an eight minute pit of darkness, forever shifting and refusing to settle in one form. It is an uncomfortable, disorienting listen, that ends with a collapse in to what sounds like a damaged cello-based drone. It’s a strong statement of intent, and the following tracks maintain the high standards set. Though much shorter – at between two and four minutes in length – they are no less effective, and nor are they any more accessible. Ninhursag’s is black metal of the most ominous, occult kind, carrying a darkness that is other-worldly in origin, and though it is very different to One Master’s in method, both bands are thoroughly devastating. Credit also has to be given the dark ambient, field-recording based outro ‘Cicuta’, which ends the split on a disquieting note.