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Hell and Thou, two of the best sludge bands today, present listeners with a solid offering of scathing sludge/doom metal. While neither band is at their peak on this seven inch, the material from each band is still quite excellent. Co-released by Gilead Media and Pesanta Urfolk for the Gilead Media Festival on white vinyl with all-white packaging and embossed lettering, the artwork is striking and it is clear that the labels put a lot of effort into creating a high-quality package.
Up first is Hell’s track, “Sheol,” which follows in the vein of the material on their second full-length by incorporating both harsh sludge riffs and clean guitar interludes. The vocals are delivered in a harsh scream piercing through the wall of distortion created by the guitar and bass as they pummel the listener with incredibly heavy and low sludge/doom riffs. One thing that stands out about the production on this song is how the bass is discernable from the guitar, and doesn’t just blend into the distortion. The plucking of each bass note is audible and serves to create another texture in the riffs, adding a layer of heaviness. Roughly midway through the song it changes direction, transitioning into a clean and melodic guitar line. However, there is nothing nice about this clean guitar, its eerie melodies keep the suffocating atmosphere created by the heavier parts of the song before transitioning back into the style of sludge riffing presented at the beginning of the song. This track is crushing and dark, which is what any good sludge song needs to be, and the use of clean guitars to change up the style while still retaining the atmosphere built up as the track progresses.
The second half of this split is Thou’s “Ordinary People,” which, while being the weaker track of the split, is by no means a bad song. “Ordinary People” is a more straightforward song that clearly falls into Thou’s style of droney sludge, and while I am a fan of this style, the reason that “Ordinary People” falls short of “Sheol” is that it simply isn’t as interesting. Thou’s riffs are still high quality, and the transitions between more mid-tempo, chugging riffs and slower, more droney riffs works well, but overall, the atmosphere they create is not as strong as that Hell created on the first side. The vocals are the usual howls utilized by Thou, and are well-preformed. However, this song just falls flat for me overall. There’s nothing specifically wrong with it, it is a solid song, but it’s just not as interesting when compared with Hell’s material and Thou’s other material.
Overall this split is definitely worth a listen, especially for Hell’s side. And if you are a fan of Thou, their side is worth a listen too, but it is not their strongest material. If you are a fan of sludge/doom, you will probably enjoy this, as it features two excellent artists and solid material from both of them.