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Let me begin with a message to those who skim reviews on here, as I sometimes do: THIS ALBUM IS ESSENTIAL! To attest to this, I bought this when it came out on vinyl (Grievantee Prod./Ltd. 500) and later on CD (Autistiartili/Ltd. 1000)
Upon viewing the names of the bands included on it, one should come to this conclusion immediately anyway. Both are incredible, legendary forces in the Finnish Black Metal scene that put out nothing but top-notch, satisfying Black Metal.
Horna presents what is arguably their best material on this split, played with a complexity and emotion that was absent on the later-released full-length "Envaatnags...". This is partly due to the more rawer, yet more coherent production (I know this sounds contradictory, but listen to both releases and you will see what I mean). They blast forth with no holds barred and no intro bullshit, bringing forth only raw, yet emotional and somewhat technical Black Metal. This was the first Horna release that I purchased with Corvus on vocals, and his performance is astounding. His painful howls in the middle of the first track will haunt the listener infinitely. Horna's material on this split inspired me to track down all of their post-Sudentaival releases, which I have done and all are recommended.
To describe Behexen's contribution in one word: monumental.
While not as memorable as Horna's, it stands out as a paragon of well-executed Black Metal. As it was recorded before "By the Blessing of Satan", it does not have the aggressiveness or speed of that album, but is rather slow, brooding, and meaningful. The material here actually sounds like the last three tracks on Sargeist's "Satanic Black Devotion" than other Behexen stuff. The three tracks presented here are all powerful, with the progressions unwinding more slowly than those of Horna, giving the listener more time to let the atmosphere of the songs take hold. This part of the split is a great complement to Horna's more biting, speedy tracks and also hold's its own as great Behexen material.
A mandatory release worth anything you pay for it. Autistiartili may not be sold out of the CD version, so act quickly if you want this masterpiece.
This excellent collaboration between two of the more well-known Finnish true black metal groups Behexen and Horna begins with a truly underground performance by Horna.
The five-minute opening track Näkyjen Tuhkasta ("Of the Ashes of Visions") starts straight away without wasting time on introductions. The sound feels fairly shallow, but it remains clear, creating an atmosphere that is certainly black metal. Näkyjen Tuhkasta is a mid-paced track at most, slowing down notably here and there. The vocals of Corvus are very recognizable, raw, shivering high-pitched shrieks of pain and hatred, mixed to the front, so it is actually possibly to discern the words. The riffing is far from melodic, and, frankly, sounds mediocre. Even though this isn't all that impressive, it is passable black metal with interesting vocals.
The second track is Rautamyrsky ("Storm of Iron"), which opens with a catchy but harsh melody that is repeated for the first minute or so. It soon gets too chaotic for my tastes, but it is definitely listenable.
The third track by Horna is perhaps the best, with a rather ominous feel to it. The fourth track Verta Koirille feels predictable and even somewhat boring once you've heard the three first tracks. It is by no means a bad performance, but it isn't an inch above average either, in my opinion.
Friends of Horna will still enjoy this, but the band's performance on their album Envaatnags Eflos Solf Esgantaavne is far superior, and features a much stronger, deeper sound. The Horna side of this split gets a 70/100 from me.
The Behexen side of the split is a true masterpiece, however, and it makes this split worth hunting even if you couldn't stand Horna.
Behexen is instantly recognizeable the second Ritual of Flesh & Blood begins with a slow, tearing melody that simply radiates cold and despair. The beginning of this track has an almost instrumental feel to it, but it does not get boring for a second, even though it in fact is quite repetitive. Torog's vocals, used sparingly for the first half of the track, fit the music perfectly - although those who disliked his vocals on Rituale Satanum will probably react the same way to his vocals on this split. Ritual of Flesh & Blood is raw, but mid-paced to the end, never nearing the brutal and chaotic speeds of Rituale Satanum and By the Blessing of Satan. This is Behexen at its most depressive. The highlight of the track begins at 4:30, where the chilling melodies quiet down, and begin to build momentum for a slightly more aggressive attack, soon erupting with a great shriek from Torog. This song is a black metal classic in my books.
The second Behexen track Beyond the Shadow of My Lord is not as great as Ritual..., but still impressive.
The final track of the split is Distant Call From Darkness, and yes, it's another masterpiece, slowly tearing its way ahead until after six minutes it picks up some speed and turns even more cruel and dark.
The sound of Behexen is at times quite similar to that of Deathspell Omega, especially in the brutally inventive riffing. The three Behexen tracks on this split are considered by many to be the best released so far by Behexen, and I'm inclined to agree. Behexen deserves at least 95/100 for these tracks. Great raw, mid-tempo black metal, overall.