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Darkest Origins - 70%

Fulgurius, December 9th, 2012

This nice digipak split between Ophidian Forest and Hæresiarchs of Dis, released by the American label UW Records, contains "previously unreleased demos and early work from each artist, showcasing each band at their most raw and most vicious" (quote from the release itself). Both bands' material has been re-mixed and re-mastered in 2012. I wasn't familiar with either of the bands before, and I hope this early material of theirs will be a good starting point.

The split starts with Ophidian Forest. This is an international project, the main author behind which (Zaragil) lives in Croatia, vocalist/keyboardist Amalgamoth is from the Netherlands, and the drummer Otrebor is from the USA and is also a member of the experimental outfit called Botanist that I'm sure some of you have heard about. I can add that the band has released two full-length albums so far, as well as a split with the Greek band Pyrifleyethon (which is quite a decent Hellenic black metal, by the way), and that they describe their style as "chaotic pagan black metal", though their lyrics are influenced by history, ancient times and nature rather than paganism as such, plus it should be noted that on the track "Verschwiegenheit" from this split they've used the text of the eponymous poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. I must say that, contrary to the self-description, there's nothing really chaotic in the Ophidian Forest's music. Their part of the split consists of the three long (8 to 11 minutes in duration) tracks of mid-tempo atmospheric black metal with some epic touches and obvious hat-tips to Burzum and the black metal of the 1990's in general. The whole thing is nicely seasoned with keyboards that help to bring the aforementioned epic feel, and although I can't say that the guitar riffs are remarkable, they flow quite smoothly into one another. The sound is somewhere between the garage, studio and bedroom sound, which looks a bit strange, to put it mildly, and vocals are somehow not distinctive enough in the whole mix.

Hæresiarchs of Dis are a completely different story. This American one-man project (there were some additional "contributors" in the past, according to the band's website, though no lineup can be found in this digipak) presents the four re-mastered tracks from the demo "Dis" (2006) and three previously unreleased tracks, as well as a brand new song "Circle of Sodomy". Like the guys from Ophidian Forest, Cernunnos (the mastermind of Hæresiarchs of Dis) also seems to like reading the books, and among the lyrics for this release we can find the passage from Mervyn Peake in "Blood and Souls" and one from H.P. Lovecraft's "Polaris" in "Wolfmoon" (both tracks are keyboard-based non-metal pieces, and while in the latter some words can be heard in the background, the former is completely instrumental, and the words appear only in the booklet). Musically, Hæresiarchs of Dis' part is much livelier as compared to Ophidian Forest, and while the latter more or less sounds like a European band, the Hæresiarchs of Dis' sound is in a way American through and through. There are a lot of thrashy riffs and old-school metal elements in general here, though the sound is rather modern. Vocals, once again, are not to my liking in a sense that these squeals make it sound like amateur teenagers' band. To this I can add that "Circle of Sodomy" is the most memorable track here, and that, besides the aforementioned "Wolfmoon" and "Blood and Souls", there's one more instrumental ambient/noise track – "Heritage of the Night".

All in all, both bands from the "Darkest Origins" have some good moments as well as some shortcomings, and Ophidian Forest's part is a little bit better in my opinion, though Hæresiarchs of Dis should definitely get some additional points for the last song.