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Well, at least it's half good - 68%

Noktorn, February 19th, 2009

Bloodstorm is one of those bands I've simply never 'gotten'; their breed of chaotic black/thrash has never particularly clicked with me. In the interest of giving them a bit more of a try, however, and in the pursuit of more Abazagorath material (as they're one of the most underrated USBM bands out there), I decided to give this a spin. The results were just as I predicted: Abazagorath's side packs three tracks of excellent melodic black metal laced with dark atmospheres and excellent musicianship, while Bloodstorm's side is mostly forgettable and bland and makes me wonder why they get so much attention from the black metal underground. It's probably a CD worth acquiring for the Abazagorath tracks alone, but it's still rather annoying to only have half a release's worth of really enjoyable content, so make of it what you will.

Abazagorath:

Abazagorath's side of this split is a bit of a departure from the material on 'Sacraments Of The Final Atrocity', likely owing to lapse of several years between the releases. While older Abazgorath work is not necessarily raw black metal, having very melodic foundations overall, the material on this split certainly has less of the raw BM aesthetic cultivated previously. The production is more lucid with less chaotic guitars dominating the soundstream, and delicately used keys have a greater presence in the music, though they're never used to excess. The overall tempo is slower (though it gets up to blasting on occasion) and the music is more atmospheric than before, with an occult vibe that replaces the pretty straightforward Dark Funeral style Satanism of the previous album.

The atmosphere cultivated is traditional but not at all ineffective; tomblike and ethereal, it brings images of haunting, candlelit rituals to mind within seconds. The memorable, melodic riffing of previous works is still entirely intact, and some of the melodies found on tracks such as 'Pitch Black Tomb' are just spectacularly written. While the emphasis here is certainly on a more creeping and brooding variety of black metal, the fast sections that appear, particularly on 'In The Heart Of A Dying Star', are exceedingly well crafted and professional. The latter word is a great one to describe this side of the release in general; the utterly clean and perfectly balanced production and impeccable musicianship present both indicate a band that has been around black metal's block more than a few times.

While Abazagorath's music is certainly very conventional and blazes no new trails in the well-trodden forest of black metal, the quality of their presentation cannot be understated. The three tracks on this side of the split are immensely well written and should greatly please any fan of modern black metal, even those who found 'Sacraments Of The Final Atrocity' lacking. The slight shift in direction for Abazagorath seems to be a positive one, and I'm eager to see what happens with the band's next substantial release. A great job on the part of these BM veterans and certainly worth a look from anyone.

Bloodstorm:

My initial impression of Bloodstorm has always been that of mediocre black/thrash with a goofy aesthetic, and my current impression of them is essentially the same. Bloodstorm's side of the split is also three tracks but nowhere near the quality of their predecessors'. Bloodstorm plays a variety of oldschool black/thrash metal with just a few modern hints that's heavy on the thrash and mostly uses the black metal elements to justify some shrieks and tremolo riffs here and there; the body of this is certainly rooted in American thrash metal, which puts it rather at odds with the more extreme strains of black metal which pop up here and there. These tracks are pretty badly recorded and sound barely above rehearsal room quality, with a very muddy guitar tone and mixing that sets everything at about the same level so nothing stands out.

A lot of discussion about Bloodstorm comes regarding their rather elaborate occult mythos, but I've always found the sound of their music at odds with such epic and otherworldly themes. My impression of chaotic, vaguely Lovecraftian apocrypha has never really matched up with bouncy, almost disconcertingly upbeat thrash riffing, but that's what Bloodstorm seems to be trying to do here. No amount of lyrical attention to detail is going to detract from how happy everything sounds, so the whole mythos doesn't mean a great deal to me and doesn't really impact my view of the music as mediocre. It's just so boring; the songs drag out infinitely longer than they should, recycling the same handful of uninteresting riffs over and over again until the song just ends without any real resolution. Bloodstorm takes a great deal of time to go nowhere.

Maybe this is simply one of those bands that has never and will never click with me, but I'm more inclined to believe that in this case the emperor really doesn't have any clothes. It's not terrible music by any means, just boring and only average at best, so I'm unable to grasp where the overweening enthusiasm for this band stems from. I guess you're into it if you're into it, but I can't see anything to recommend.

The upshot:

I like Abazagorath's side but I don't like Bloodstorm's, so I recommend this CD with the caveat that you treat the last three tracks as a bonus to the main event of the first three. If you're a Bloodstorm fan you'll certainly want to pick this up, and if you're an Abazagorath fan (which you're not) you'll certainly want to investigate it as well. Casual black metal fans are greatly encouraged to check out at least the first three tracks, as they're a great indication that USBM is indeed alive and creating solid music even today. Worth a look though it's not as satisfying as I'd like it to be.