There are several overcast moments on this 12” split where you start to feel trapped against the grain, moments where you almost buckle under the pressure. Just as rain lashes against a campfire tent with no regard for its cowering inhabitants, Transatlantic cohorts ██████ and Old Soul lay it on thick with a ferocious assault of screamo-tinted black metal that is almost completely devoid of any hope at all; a four-track ass kicking that besieges you under the weight of their anguished screams, suffocating swathes of distortion and a cut-throat pace that only slows when it’s time to survey the damage.
But, whilst the agenda may be co-signed, there are some noticeable differences in the way these two bands ply their trade. ██████ (aka nic) share the same penchant for bloodthirsty cries and eerie post-industrial atmospheres that many of their European brethren do. Think Amia Venera Landscape, Amenra, Sed Non Satiata, Raein – bands that live and die by their ability to create emotional resonance through the despondent imagery that their music conjures. ██████ are cut from the same cloth but with blast beats and a more powerful end game; ‘V’ shines brightest, its 14 minutes a haunted journey through mud and fire, a thick, aggressive barrage that patches together the more interesting elements of sludge, crust, black metal and post metal.
Old Soul’s manifesto is rather more technical, with lively percussion that darts between different time signatures as the spasmodic guitars play catch up to create a sort of stop/start chaos. It’s all the more distinguishable when juxtaposed next to their Czech counterparts who muddy their sound so well, and serves as an obvious reminder of the nuances that pervade American metal. ‘Emerald’ embraces the more melodic strands ala Deafheaven, with piercing lead tremolos acting as conductor to an orchestra of fitful howls and thunderous walls of sound that shudder between calming passages of minimalist expanse. It’s not quite as submerging as ██████’s half, but it carries the same all-or-nothing conviction.
If you can brave the relentlessly downtrodden thematics, you’ll no doubt feel great joy at being enveloped in this cast-iron aural prison. The most menacing aspect is not even what you can physically hear; it is instead carried in the threat of a more punishing downward spiral in the two bands’ mind-set. In ██████’s case, it is only when you translate their foreign speech that you can truly frame their dismal disposition, with uneasy whispers turning into rather frightening propositions in an instant. “Don’t speak, don’t breathe, don’t touch me” is a particularly crushing sentiment of coiled-up introversion, and an indicator that we might only just be seeing the start of the walls really closing in.
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