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A three-way split of Japanese bands that seems to flow rather strangely. Anatomia and Coffins seem to be a logical pairing for a split, both being oldschool, doomy, slightly crusty death metal bands, but Grudge makes it a bit stranger; this essentially unknown artist plays a breed of rather torturous sludge metal laced with filthy grind. The second band is sequence is certainly the odd man out on this collection. While all the sides of this release are quite strong, the way they're assembled is certainly strange, making the whole package a bit more palatable when taken in pieces rather than one bite.
In a major step up from what I felt was a flawed debut album, Anatomia have shed much of their obsessive Autopsy worship in favor of a sound that reminds me more of their previous incarnation as Transgressor. Autopsy is still a significant influence, but 'Mental Funeral' appears to have been spinning in the band's collective player a bit less while composing these five tracks. The band has started to carve out something of a song of its own, still firmly embedded in doomy death metal, but now having an almost hypnotic, ritualistic feel full of slow rhythms and winding riffs. Transgressor really comes to mind with its more atmospheric and haunted feel, and it's nice to see Anatomia moving forward more than a small step in finding their own sound. Gone are some of the utterly dreary atonal sludge plods of 'Dissected Humanity' in favor of more measured and subtle compositions, making for a much better listening experience overall.
While most people saw the band's debut as being incredibly strong, I definitely thought they could easily do better, and it seems they could and have. Their side of this three-way split is a very satisfying and enjoyable listen, marred by none of the excessive repetition and overly predictable structuring of their debut. If that album was a bit green, the material here shows the band composing in a much more mature and professional fashion while sacrificing none of the brutality and darkness that defines them. The atmosphere is just as filthy and depraved as before, so no need to worry that these guys have suddenly softened up with time. Anatomia is stronger than ever and I'm looking forward to hearing a new full-length from them with their new, more developed sound.
Certainly a bizarre band when compared to the more conventional strains of Anatomia and Coffins, Grudge plays a very bleak, hideous breed of extreme sludge mixed with blasting grind. The production on this side of the split is absolutely great, with a sick, dirt-caked guitar tone and drums with just enough trash to increase the overall sickness of the music. An easy comparison to make here would be to Goatsblood, though with a somewhat more musical sound which seems to be influenced by some of the earlier doomcrust bands such as Amebix. Some of the slower sections don't sound entirely removed from Anatomia, but when the band kicks into high gear you know they're a very different breed. Riffing alternates between laboriously picked single note patterns which drone over equally heavy-handed drumming, while the faster sections alternate between punk beats and blasting topped with death metal-influenced tremolo riffing or crusty power chord strums. One of the main points that will divide listeners, though, are the very peculiar vocals, which come in the form of a hoarse shout that I can only describe as 'hooting'; they're hard to describe but sound particularly ancient and decrepit, which seems to fit the overall feeling of the music quite well. I enjoy them, but those who aren't fans of strange vocals will probably be lost.
When I listen to Grudge's side of this split, I get a lot of images of trash-strewn streets, abandoned industrial districts, cloudy, dark, yellowed skies, and humans committing monstrous acts of violence upon one another. It's music for a society that has completely fallen into decay and predation, with not even a shred of hope to be found anywhere. Grudge is the ultimate antidote to the romantically melancholy or overbearingly good-time music that seems to have infected the metal scene as of late, so I have to give a hand to this band for 'keeping it real' so to speak. If you like nasty, unspeakably dark, oppressive, and hateful stuff, Grudge is definitely worth a look. Any description of the band's sound doesn't really do the whole package much justice, so those intrigued by my descriptions are heartily recommended to check them out for themselves. I definitely want to hear more from these guys.
Rounding out the bunch is the mighty Coffins, living legends of oldschool doom/death returning with four brand new tracks of massive riffs, pounding d-beats, and fierce, spitting grunts where singing should be. As usual, they fail to disappoint, and their material is just as perfectly composed and horrendously dark and heavy as before. Opening track 'Abysmal Blood Sea' is one of the band's best songs to date, being sort of a new, more complex version of 'The Unspeakable Pain' and its infectious, ultra-simple riffing, this time replaced with a filthy, grandiose main riff transforming into a churning morass of power chords and crushing drum beats. The following track, 'Cremated Remains', almost seems to be Coffins imitating Anatomia, with its clearly Autopsy-influenced riff set and sludgy, awkward rhythms. 'Stillbirth', on the other hand, is one of Coffins' crustiest and fastest tracks to date, and the thick production with enormously dirty guitar tone transforms the track into a barely comprehensible, utterly chaotic foray into oldschool crust/death insanity before a demented solo bursts in for a brief moment before the track's abrupt conclusion. Rounding out their side is a nasty cover of Asphyx's 'Wasteland Of Terror' for all the oldschool doom/deathers out there.
Really, does anything have to be said about Coffins' side? With this band you always know you're getting quality. Coffins has never had a bad release and this is no different. Any fan of oldschool Celtic Frost and Hellhammer worshiping doom/death metal really owes it to themselves to get this and all other Coffins releases immediately. Theft and/or cold-blooded murder is most certainly an option.
Yeah, this is pretty sweet. When I originally heard this split, my opinion of it was somewhat more muted due to the strange flow between artists, but eventually I got over that and saw this disc for what it is: a consistently great, unbelievably heavy and filthy slab of Japanese underground that everyone needs to grab. I suppose if your definition of metal only involves bands who employ dragons as a lyrical theme you might not be into this, but everyone else really needs to pick it up as soon as they can. It's just fantastic from start to finish and endures in quality through repeated listens. A nearly flawless split.