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I first heard Aurvandil over a year ago. It was a few tracks off of the first couple of demos, and I wasn’t impressed. So I forgot about them and moved on. Time went by and I found the “Futile Rehearsal” demo available for purchase. It had been a while since I had last heard them, so I decided to give it a try again. It was a definite improvement over the previous works, so I decided to pay attention to what this band was doing. Soon afterward I found this split album available, and I immediately went for it. Plus, the other band on here was from Iran. I had never heard of them before, but Iranian black metal isn’t exactly the most common thing in the world, and I was intrigued.
This was $8 well spent.
One-man black metal outfit Aurvandil opens things up with “Prelude”, and while its short, it’s noticeably better that “Futile Rehearsal” right away. The single riff that the song is built upon fades in out of the silence, and it immediately captures your attention. From there on, another guitar and a drum machine kicks in slowly at first but helps build it up to a mid-paced trance inducing groove. The drum machine is very well programmed, which is good considering how awful programmed black metal drum machines can be. The vocals have a very nice delay/reverb effect making them sound like he’s rasping the lyrics from inside a cave, and the guitars have a strange tone to them that sounds empty but full at the same time, and the occasional lead riff has a good echo to it. It’s kind of hard to describe them accurately. It sort of has a blurry and dreamlike quality to it. Afterwards, it fades into silence just as quickly as it came, setting the tone for the rest of Aurvandil’s half of the split.
“Serpent Form” is less melodic but carries on the sound of “Prelude” nicely. Next up are the tracks “The Wind’s Sorrow” and “Bleak Sky Fading”, which have the same style of writing from the first two songs, but since they are taken from the “Futile Rehearsal” demo, they have a bit of a rawer sound, which makes things sound slightly less hypnotic. The only thing I have to complain about is the song lengths. They end too soon, but they’re brilliant and I would love to hear extended versions of these.
Aurvandil sounds like how a foggy forest looks in the springtime. It’s beautiful, but it’s also very atmospheric and gloomy. I only see this band doing greater things as time goes on. Keep your eye on this project.
Next up is Iranian black metal outfit Halla, and they are on the noisier chaotic end of the spectrum. It’s hard to distinguish what the hell is going on upon first listen, but it grows on you quickly. At first, they sound like a typical noisy black metal group. You know how it is. The vocals and guitars that completely lack bass and sound like a wall of static. Heard it all before, right? Well, these guys do it in a strange way. Again, its difficult to describe what it is, but there is something here that sets them apart. Maybe its because even though it’s a wall of static, you can still hear what’s going on with the instruments. It also could be that the drums actually have bass, which sort of gives the other instruments a boost here. It sounds strange, but it really does. But Halla’s biggest strength is when they slow down. When they slow it down, it immediately takes on this cavernous, creepy sound where everything becomes completely audible. Its eerie and demented in a way. The best examples of this are 1:22 into “Rend All Holy Books” and 3:30 into “Ashes Of The Flesh”. This goes on for three songs, and then we have “Spit”, which is sort of an ambient outro, and a great way to end their half.
The vibe I get from Halla’s side is like it was recorded in the basement of a bombed out building somewhere in the Middle East while tanks are rolling through the streets above. It’s probably just because I know where they’re from and I had that image of the Middle East in my mind to begin with, but it’s a creepy vibe nonetheless. They also get points for turning generic, static-ridden black metal into something unique to them. That’s something both bands on this album have: their own sound. And they’re both black metal, so to have your own sound in that style in very hard to come by.
This split was releases by Nokturnal Transmissions Records and consists mostly of tracks from both bands that have seen the light of day before. Fifty percent of Aurvandil’s part was taken from the Futile Rehearsal 2007 released by Lokisson, while the other share is previously unreleased material. Halla’s part saw to three-quarter the light of day on a Smell the Stench tape, but for this split these songs have been re-mastered and one additional was written. Cold coffee then?
To those familiar with the works of this band, the reference can be shown towards their Futile … album. Not only is the music strikingly similar in terms of the sound, but also half of the tracks have been taken from it. Fans of this piece of art will not be disappointed by their share of the split.
The emphasis lies undoubtedly on more melodic and short songs, whereas not much complexity in the song-writing can be expected and to the surprise of the listener each one of them is over before they have really begun. Especially these four tracks reveal the weaknesses in the style of Aurvandil and what the band should do to overcome it. With longer compositions the band would be able to take the next step and to progress further. Currently their shortness prohibits not the likeliness to enjoy them, as the concept reveals itself to the listener very easily.
Yet what does Aurvandil sound like? The music has some rawness, which is predominately expressed through the style in which the vocals are performed and what share they take in the music. Despite the low amount in which they appear, they nonetheless dominate the music when they are present. It is some kind of distorted kind of raspy screaming which is far in the foreground and drowning the instruments to some extent. It is a rather ambivalent aspect of the music and the likeliness that one or another person might be annoyed by this facet of the music is given without doubt. Even though they are mixed too much in the front, the actual way they are performed does fit to the music and they have a positive effect on the atmosphere.
Melodic and catchy Black Metal is what Aurvandil offers with these four tracks. It is quite easy to distinguish the band’s style in a greater variety of music as the sound of the clean guitars, the pondering of the drums and of course the vocals are done in a way which is quite uncommon and not often to be found. Prelude consists entirely of clean guitars, while on other tracks these have merely been used in the beginning; dominating are guitars with a distorted and dirty sound; except for the solo parts of course (Serpent Form). In terms of their style it should be emphasized that the music switches between slower and midtempo parts with some eruptions into faster regions. It is possible to follow the music easily and the complexity of the arrangements is on a moderate level. This impression cannot be distorted by the fact that several layers of guitars have been used while recording the music.
A little bit annoying is the sound of the snare drum, whose sound is not what would please the listener and it is simply too much in the foreground. Secondly are the tracks quite short and some further elaboration of the ideas would be nice; especially with regard to the occasionally abrupt ending of the songs (Bleak sky fading). Also the vocals are rather a hit or a miss, but they fit to the music, but perhaps some less dominance would have a positive effect on the music.
Aurvandil has evolved quite a lot since their early days and the outcome of this evolution can be examined on this split as well as on the preceding release; Futile Rehearsal 2007. The music does not lack of quality in respect to graven flaws in the handling of the instruments or in the production. What can be criticized is of a more general nature. The split opens with Prelude quite neat, but there is no transition between the tracks; which would have been nice. More complexity in and length of the tracks is what the band needs and on this split the currently situation is revealed merciless to the neutral person. Once someone has begun to enjoy the nice compositions, they are over already. Take the aforementioned track (Bleak sky fading for instance. It has a nice beginning, evolves into some neat Black Metal with vocals and finally some solo-parts were added with which the songs fades out. The ideas are there, but they are not used currently.
Performance: Black Metal without keyboards but some decent melodies
Production: raw in some respect; vocals, drums
Song-writing: melody-oriented and with the attempts to write catchy music
Positive: catchiness of songs, nice melodies
Negative: too short songs, production and mixing could be improved.
For this split the previously released material - three tracks from a tape distributed by Smell the Stench records - of this Iranian band has been re-mastered, while one additional track has been recorded which appears on this release only. The improvement in terms of the sound is immense and despite the extreme rawness which still dominates the music, it is at least possible to get behind the ideas of the songs; not to speak that it is actually possible to perceive the samples which have been drowned by the production on the first demo; or have they been added for this release? It remains guesswork.
Noise is still a dominating facet of the music, as the raw production prohibits the existence of a clean sound. The vocals are the foreground of course and beyond that do guitars and drums challenge each other for dominance in the music. A less important role play the samples, whose part is often drowned by the sound of the vocals respectively the instruments, whereas they are unable to unfold their full potential and are currently nothing more than ‘nice to have’ attachments. Of the riffs little can be recognized as the distortion of the guitars prohibits this in the first place; the extensive use of tremolo makes things worse and not much of the play is revealed to the listener. There is some kind of wall of guitar sound, but not in the sense that it has a positive effect on the music. Rather the contrary is the case and the situation is only fostered by the adverse impacts of the pondering of the drums; rare but nonetheless appearing.
In terms of the actually performance it can be noted that the style of Halla is oriented on more simplistic Black Metal with not too complex structures or arrangements and furthermore was a lot of repetition used while composing the songs. Rend all holy books’s chorus is repeated extensively, while Ashes of Flesh and Vacuous Ayats are written in a very linear manner. Spit is something like an outro and as such not very complex arranged.
It is hard to endure the music of Halla. The extreme rawness and the noisy sound of the guitars are a challenge to the listener to endure. Nevertheless is the band capable to play some decent ‘melodies’ and these shine through the dense swamp of sounds. To the listener it would indeed be a welcome step forward if the sound would loose some of its rawness and would consequently progress towards a more transparent one. The circumstances under which the demo was recorded as well as the local problem with which the band has to deal with have been taken into consideration in terms of the score. 50 points are given for their share of this split.
Performance: very raw Black Metal with occasionally appearing Arabian samples
Production: very raw and noisy sound
Song-writing: oriented towards old-school Black Metal
Positive: catchiness of some songs
Negative: sound, the mixing (the most important aspects here)
It is an interesting split with music which is certainly out of the ordinary. Music from the underground can be listened to on this split, but the art of the two participating bands is diametric: the melodic and catchy music of Aurvandil on the one site and the raw and aggressive one of Halla on the other one. How much they differ from each other can be perceived when one part leads over to the other one, when peaceful atmosphere is disturbed by bursts of the utmost violence. There is no transition that might prepare the listener of what will follow and therefore this person might be shocked by the music played by Halla. Yet after some time the melodies and ideas might reveal themselves and it is possible to get behind the ideas of the Iranian band. Eight tracks, equally distributed amongst the bands, are offered on this split, but the length of less than thirty minutes is not the optimum of what might have been possible; close to seventeen minutes by Halla and not even twelve minutes by Aurvandil. This is one negative facet of this split.
Left alone its shortness, the performance of the band does certain feature some points of interest and fans of the underground will undoubtedly be fascinated by this release. To those who favour polished and clean mainstream music, this album will possess not much worth. Despite the usage of previously released music, this is not a negative aspect of the music. The extreme limited amount of units on which the tracks have been distributed previously, would only enable fans to be familiar with them, but the majority would still find something new and fresh in this release. Cold coffee? Not at all.