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In 2010 we see the joining of two blackened thrash bands, the Australian Nocturnal Graves and Finnish Hell Spirit on this one disc. Two bands from opposite sides of the world who, in theory, should sound completely different due to their geographical positioning sparking evolutional variation but instead, the listener subjected to a relentless thrashing on both sides by bands sharing the same subgenre name.
Compared to the older Nocturnal Graves fans, I haven’t been into the band for very long. However that doesn’t stop me from saying that the band is an excellent slab of blackened thrash and that Satan’s Cross is one of the best albums of the modern era. Aside from that album, we are now treated with the band’s first new material in 3 years and it does not disappoint. Nocturnal Graves’ side begins with the fast-paced introduction riff in Inner Void which sounds more like Mayhem and the more well-known of the second-wave black metal bands. This riff also sets the mood for the band’s side of the split, that this shall be a punishing and brutal assault upon the ears of the listener.
What is presented on Nocturnal Graves’ side of the split is basically what the band does best: blasting, blasphemous blackened thrash metal. However there is an exception to this which is track 2, Progenitor of Limitless Cruelty, which is a mid-paced track, heavily influenced by Venom and serves as something great to headbang to. This track caught me by surprise as it resembled that which fellow countrymen Trench Hell would do and I was so used to hearing Nocturnal Graves spit out dirty tracks of intense thrashing black metal that I couldn’t imagine them doing anything else, and it’s worked for the better as now I’m aware of what Nocturnal Graves can really do.
Musically, this has proven to be another triumph for Nocturnal Graves. However there is one problem that I found: the production. I am an avid fan of Satan’s Cross and having listened to that album in excessive amounts, I can easily say that the production on this split is extremely lacking. First of all there is little to no bass present on Nocturnal Graves’ side which can make listening be a real chore. What I found with the band’s 2007 release was that there were dynamics; the extreme bass and treble contrasted with each other, giving a ‘fuller’ sound and making you appreciate the complexity of the music. With The Gravespirit Sessions, however, hardly any bass is present which hurts your ears and can ultimately put you off this release. Listen with care.
When I heard about Nocturnal Graves doing a split with Hell Spirit, my first thoughts were “Ugh, why does Nocturnal Graves have to be paired with some other crap band that I’m not interested in?” This was an ignorant claim to make, having not familiarised myself with the band’s material at that point and now that I’ve heard what they can offer, I’m glad that I heard them. Hell Spirit’s split with Nocturnal Graves marks the first time that their music has been released on a label and with this, the band may get signed. Which they should, because they’re a great band.
One way which can describe the band’s music is something similar to Nocturnal Graves, without the intensity of the music and with more influences from traditional heavy metal. However just because they are less intense doesn’t make them any bad. Their side begins with Reign of Fire, which is the slowest song on the band’s side of the split, which makes for something heavy yet slow enough to headbang to. The placement of the slowest track in the first slot is rather intelligent, as this allows the second track, Condemned to Death, to creep amongst your speakers and hit you with all of its sheer force. In other words, this song is fast. Pretty damn fast. Not Origin speed but for black metal it can be viewed as more of a speedy song. Goat unleashes his blasts when you’re least expecting it and have this accompany the nasty guitarwork of Baron Dethrone and Hellvomitor and you have the overall greatness of the song improved drastically. Tracks 3 to 5 continue in this style of merciless, fast-paced blackened thrash.
The production on Hell Spirit’s side of the split, unlike their split-mates Nocturnal Graves, is decent. It’s dirty and raw like any bestial thrash band would want but not to the point of sounding like it was recorded in a metal factory. All of the instruments are concise and require no fancy EQ in order to hear certain parts of the split because it’s been buried beneath the guitars tracks. Mix-wise, everything is in perfect equilibrium and this vastly improves the standing of the band in my opinion. I look forward in seeing what Hell Spirit provide in the future.
Overall, if you can look past the production of the first band, then this is an excellent split and if you are a fan of blackened thrash metal, then you should already own this.