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This little release is essentially very easy to define: it's a EP-sized split of two very old-schoolish death metal bands on from Virginia, the other from Finland, and all of the respective band members have very credible band backgrounds. How they ever found each other and managed to agree to appear on a split is shrouded in mystery, but the result sounds roughly what the cover art looks like: old-school death metal in the 90s sense, medium tempo, and with dirty, old-fashioned, and crushing sound. In other words, stuff that will never grow old.
While the rather impressive Grave Wax crew has roughly 20 different bands in their history, including Death and Mantas, the Finnish counterpart is a single man, Lasse Pyykkö, of Hooded Menace fame, and with half a dozen studio-only projects. The difference in the curriculum vitae of the participating bands makes little difference in this case, however, as Pyykkö's Claws has a surprisingly similar sound and style, and doesn't fall short in musical quality, either. The bands are from the same branch of the metal tree, and the split is a balanced whole.
Soundwise the split is a consistent whole. The same comfortably muddled and intentionally faux-lo-fi crushingly soft cushion of death from two decades ago is used to suffocate the listener on both halves, and while the bands can be told apart based on the sound alone, the difference does no harm; suffice to say that Claws is perhaps a tiny bit more modern, but not much. The growling and instrument tones on both sides are balanced, and while the high fidelity of modern tech death is nowhere close to the sound, everything is still conveniently audible. As it should be.
There really is little else to say, other than that this is a rather good split that successfully recalls the early days of death metal. And it works wonderfully in its intended role; more of this from both bands would be welcome. There's nothing groundbreaking here, just good basic work, and that will suffice for now; recommended for older deathmetalheads. But a live gig, at least by Grave Wax (since a one-man band would be awkward on stage) would also be more than welcome. This kind of stuff always works in a live setting. With beer.
As a minor interesting detail, the artwork of Pestilent Formation was done by one of the band members, Mark Riddick of Grave Wax... and you can bet that if you like death metal, you'll recognize the style. For a very good reason.