In the words of fellow Toilet writer Richter: “Splits, man. I’m not usually a fan. In the best of my experience, there’s always a mediocre band casting a shadow on a really good one, and I find myself wishing the really good band had just released an EP instead.”
Will this new cassette split between raw black metal wizards Barghest and death/doom hierophants Teeth suffer the same fate? We’ll all find out soon. But for the moment, friends, I want you to look at that cover image. Just look. That right there is pure sex. Even if you have no use for cassettes because you lack a cassette player or just don’t feel like trekking out to the barn to dig yours out of storage, you must admit that you covet this here cassette. The skull’s shading so supple. The serpent’s nimble curvature. The timeless palette of only black, white and gray. Perhaps there is a vacant spot on your mantle just crying out for such a lovely art-piece. Or maybe there’s room left somewhere on your inked dermis for one more tattoo, and you’d like to have this cassette in hand when you visit your local tattoo parlor so that your local tattoo artist can have a tangible image to work from. (Fear not, digiphiles: this split will be available for download from bandcamp too.) Whatever the case, I am telling you that you want this and you agree with me because I am speaking in an authoritative voice.
Shit, you want to know what this split sounds like? Fine. Jeez.
We begin with Louisiana’s Barghest, who proved themselves the masters of the brief release last year with Into Weeping Firmament. The EP delivered no frills, all kills black metal of the most misanthropic variety. If you liked what you heard then, you are in luck buster: this new split picks up right where Firmament left off without missing a step. The stars of the show, as always, are those unearthly tremolo leads. To my ears, Barghest have no peers in modern black metal when it comes to tremolo melodies. (Sure, Bölzer wrote one really great one, but Barghest have written dozens.) How do they achieve those horrific tonalities? Black magic? Bizarre tunings? No idea. Also of note is the unwaveringly belligerent drum attack. I’m guessing the other members of Barghest discovered some feral dude in the swamps near Baton Rouge, took him back to the practice studio, filled him with beer and set him loose on the drumset. The drums sound caked in the mud and filth that surely came flying off of his body as he unleashed his very first blastbeat. Like some blind idiot conductor-god, he leads the band from headlong 4/4 blastfests to bouncy 6/8 jaunts and back again. My only complaint here is that his snare drum is usually all but inaudible, a furtive mothfart in a thunderstorm. Okay, I have one more complaint: that Barghest’s bottom-heavy, sludge-infused bent could use a slightly better production job, just to make those tremolos really pop–and to bring that flimsy snare sound out of my imagination and into the real.
Switching gears entirely, Teeth talk us down from the Barghest-induced ledge with a crisp and clear introductory doom riff. Boring? Yes. But if you have the patience to wade through it, you will be greeted by some stellar death metal that takes the best of old-school riffage and the new school of mind-bending dissonance and smashes them together. Imagine dialing way back on the technicality and restlessness of modern day Gorguts, yet preserving the monumental atmosphere. (Also, for vocal reference, imagine Luc Lemay bellowing between not-fully chewed bites of an egg salad sandwich.) Teeth have all the chops to reach greatness. I just think they need to focus on their strengths while dispensing with their weaknesses. When they are plodding at a doomic pace, they falter. When they are operating at a fever-pitch, they are very nearly breathtaking. Their decision to contribute one twenty-four-minute track to this split instead of, say, four six-minute tracks is a bit confusing–especially in light of the fact that this one track is obviously four distinct songs separated by superfluous post-tinged doom interludes. I can only assume that they were blown away by Pleiades Dust and looked at each other and exclaimed simultaneously: “Let’s go for it!” I appreciate the journey they were trying to take us on; I just don’t think a split release was the correct medium; nor do I have the patience anymore for single tracks stretching over the fifteen-minute mark, Pleiades Dust included.
My handy graphing calculator was taken in the Rapture last night, so I am at pains to calculate an exact rating for this split release. 4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell for Barghest. 3/5 for Teeth. That should shake out to . . . um . . .