Review: Siberian Hell Sounds / Convulsing – Split

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Label: Art As Catharsis Records

Containing two tracks and clocking in at just over forty minutes in length, this split between Siberian Hell Sounds and Convulsing is a dense, challenging listen. Filled with unsettling violence, this record is one that may require some time to get the most out of, but it also has immediate appeal, with its nightmarishly overwhelming assault grabbing hold of the listener’s throat right from the first moment and refusing to let go. This is music of utmost darkness, of the sort that transcends genre, and that the tag of “extreme” barely does justice to.

Siberian Hell Sounds’ song, ‘The Breath of the Beast’, is far removed from the grinding, blackened crust onslaught of previous EP Svengali. Whilst that EP impressed with its no-nonsense, incredibly violent take on black metal, this song is quite different. There are still plenty of shades of previous Siberian Hell Sounds releases, with the track being filled with belligerent violence; but what really impresses about ‘The Breath of the Beast’ is that it takes the intelligence previously hinted at on previous releases, and puts it to the fore. The song is as dense and haunting as anything the likes of Deathspell Omega or Aosoth have released, and it is clear that a lot of thought has gone in to the construction of ‘The Breath of the Beast’; but at the same time, it has an emotional, cathartic immediacy that is often missing from black metal this musically complex, and it is this element which makes it so noteworthy. Repeat listens will reveal a wealth of hidden aspects, as you’d hope for from a song this thick in detail, but it’s that emotional edge which makes it stand out.

‘Engraved Upon Bleached Bone’, the song from Convulsing, is similarly packed with depth and detail; but whereas Siberian Hell Sounds’ side of the split is filled with emotional urgency, what Convulsing offer is much darker. There’s a depraved death metal grind to the song, that isn’t far removed from the kind of onslaught you’d expect from war metal; yet there’s also the kind of transcendent violence that makes bands like Antediluvian or Portal so captivating. Atmospheric passages help to break up the violence, and during some of these movements the music has an almost dark jazz feel and grace. It’s a remarkable contrast, and a tribute to the artistic vision and talent behind Convulsing that it all works so well together.

Unlike with most splits, this is one release where neither band has the obviously “better” side. Both Siberian Hell Sounds and Convulsing offer songs that are ambitious, filled with depth, and that have little regard for genre conventions. To make such punishing music that has both immediate and long-term appeal is a substantial achievement, making this split one that fans of challenging extreme metal would be ill advised to miss.

Split is available digitally and on vinyl via Bandcamp. 

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