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Surprisingly enough, this split between two of my favorite under-underground bands in the US today leaves me surprisingly cold; neither side really showcases the band at their best. Black Wraith's contributions, while good, are a definite step down from the material on the sublime 'Channeling The Unlight Of The Moon', while AOC's side, while good, is a bit thin due to the lack of new original metal material from the artist. This split has nothing bad on it, but I can't help but feel somewhat disappointed that something more substantial didn't arise from the artists on this CDr.
If one particular element prevents Black Wraith's side from equaling 'Channeling The Unlight Of The Moon', it's the production. In a somewhat ironic twist, Black Wraith has the exact opposite problem as most poorly-produced black metal: there's way too much bass, to the point where it tends to drown out the rest of the instruments. The programmed drums, and the bass drums in particular, are far and away the most dominant presence in the mix, making the rather plasticky guitars and subdued vocals secondary features in the music. Now, the music itself isn't bad; most of the material on this split is expanded from the more aggressive tracks on the original demo, with the odd, swinging riffs of songs like 'Nightbringers' taken to the next level and dominating the songs. The songwriting is good, and the tracks are fast-paced and interesting; if only they were produced more evenly.
At the same time, though the material by Black Wraith on 'A Sweet Voyage To Kingu' is good, it never quite matches up to the quality of even the more similar tracks on 'Channeling The Unlight Of The Moon', and the greater emphasis on aggression comes at the cost of much of the atmosphere and melody that made numbers like that tape's title track so essential. This seems like it would appeal to a rather different crowd; if you like your black metal more throbbing and intense, this would likely please you more than 'Channeling The Unlight Of The Moon', but honestly it's hard for this to match up to the great material on that demo. This music isn't a failure, and is still very solid USBM despite the flaws of production, but it's certainly a lesser beast to the artist's previous work.
AOC's side is a little stranger; an ambient track and a Summoning cover are all that's brought to the table, and while both are solid, I would have liked to hear more original and metallic material from what I feel is one of the best underground musicians in the metal scene today. 'Catharsis', though, is an extremely strong ambient track: lush, wild, untamed synth tones shimmer in a glorious incoherence, reminding me a great deal of a less minimal (and less pretentious, of course) Njiijn. The Summoning cover is a fairly dedicated representation of the original, with just as much archaic and vast atmosphere as the band typically cultivates. While AOC doesn't bring a great deal new to the track, it's a solid interpretation of an already strong song.
While the material on AOC's side, like Black Wraith's, is good, I can't help but feel underwhelmed with the thinness of the material on display. Even yet another version of 'Mightiest Under The Moon' would have been a nice addition; as it stands, AOC's side sounds like a pair of afterthought bonus tracks rather than a full composition. There's nothing wrong with the songs, and I do recommend them for the more ambient-minded among us, but like the first side of this release, it seems to be a matter of potential mostly unrealized.
This isn't a bad little CDr, but I don't doubt that both artists could have done a great deal more with a more collaborative perspective on the release and perhaps more time as well. There's nothing wrong with this, and if you can track it down I recommend you pick it up; it's just unfortunate that it didn't rise above 'pretty good'.
This split has done two things to me: further proven that Black Wraith can do no wrong, and made me very interested in hearing more from A.O.C. Black Wraith I've reviewed before, and thoroughly enjoyed their demo. A.O.C. don't really give enough for me to draw much of a conclusive opinion as they only present an instrumental and a cover, but they're both performed with such grace that I'm interested in hearing some of their self-written black metal material, especially if it's in this same vain.
Black Wraith play quite raw yet exceedingly melodic black metal, a little similiar to Judas Iscariot. The riffs are all extremely well written, and are definately the focal point of Black Wraith's music, but the whole structure is simply brilliant. Everything works together - the drums and guitars interact very well, and the bass often plays a seperate interesting riff and doesn't necessarily follow the guitars the whole time. The drums are supplied by a very well-programmed drum machine, as far as I can tell, which ranges from steady rock beats to hyperspeed blasting. But really, most of the charm here shines from the beautiful guitarwork, and it's not a stretch to say that Black Wraith manage to create some of the best guitar compositions in black metal.
A.O.C.'s side of the split probably isn't a good reputation of the band's regular music as it only contains one ambient instrumental and one cover. That isn't to say that it isn't excellent, and most certainly welcomed. 'Catharsis' is a beautiful albeit short ambient composition reminescent of 'Crypt of the Wizard' era Mortiis or 'Hlidskjalf' era Burzum. It's well composed and works well in the context of this split. 'Long Lost to Where No Pathway Goes' is a Summoning cover. The best part of this song are the actual riffs and composition, so naturally those points go to Summoning themselves, but A.O.C. have given the cover a nice reworking, with a bit more of an ambient, echo-laden vibe. It's good, even if it doesn't stray so far from the original, and is a nice way to close this release.
So, I can't really say much for A.O.C.'s material other than the two tracks here are great, but for anybody that hasn't heard Black Wraith yet, you're missing out on some truly wonderous black metal.
This split release offers music from two American Black Metal bands and both line-ups consist of no more than one member. Before this release each of the bands has released at least one more demo, whereas some kind of professionalism and experience should or could be expected on this split release.
If someone is aware of the first demo of Black Wraith, this person will undoubtedly recognize the style in which the music was written and produced. There is again this harsh and raspy voice and again is the listener tormented by a drum-computer; in parts abominable on Misanthropic Manifesto. On the other hand there is a good deal of nice performed guitar-work and it is their part that makes the music enjoyable; to some extent.
I once read on a MySpace profile of an LLN-band that the listener should try to get beyond the wall of noise and poor production and enjoy the melodies that would reveal themselves by doing so. This is a lame excuse for this particular band, but it certainly contains some aspects of truth when it comes to the art of Black Wraith. The music is quite raw and the vocals are annoying, at least to me they are, but beyond these facets the music and the riffs are again on a pretty good level; the first demo of the band was already surprisingly well crafted. Never are the songs limited to mere simplistic or monotonous design, but rather include a catchiness that lifts the compositions over the lump of a good deal of bands from the underground.
Nevertheless still a good deal of facets needs to be improved on this record. The distorted vocals are again bad, the production and the mixing could also have been better, but this could be brought forth against a legion of small and young bands. 71 points shall do it for know.
Antagonic Omnipotent Catharsis (AOC)
To start with the art of AOC, this release should perhaps be avoided. Why? Well, there is one ‘ambiental’ song and a cover version of Summoning on this split, but no Black Metal composed by this band. Therefore it is mere guesswork on how the band would sound on their own releases and if there would be some kind of characteristic sound or element that could be referred to. It might also be strange to listen to it if someone is only familiar with the preceding releases and might expect something in their style.
The instrumental track offers some neat keyboard textures and motives, but is not stepping beyond the electronic set-up. In describing the song-writing, the term ‘linear’ is quite adequate and reflects the kind of arrangement quite well. There is not much catchiness and repetition and the song progresses without leaving much behind.
Quite strange is also the Summoning cover Long Lost to Where No Pathway Goes from their Stronghold album. The interpretation stays close to the original and emphasizes the keyboards to a good deal. Would it not be for some timing errors at the beginning, the here offered performance would be a solid one.
40 points for an ambivalent release.