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I will start by saying that this is up there with one of the best splits I have ever heard. Joining the elite split album company of Vlad Tepes / Belketre, Horna / Behexen and the unbeknownst to most Folkvang / Pagan Hellfire we now have Sad / Mourning Forest. Unlike a lot of splits the production here is excellent and it sounds like both bands recorded in the same studio with the same volume levels and equipment. It's almost hard to tell when the Mourning Forest side of the split ends and the Sad side begins because even their musical styles are similar. What we have here are two bands that didn't just throw some songs together, but made an awesome album where both band's music compliments the other perfectly.
Mourning Forest kick it off with five master crafted pieces of pure black metal. There is nothing, but devotion to the black arts and professional musicianship on display here. Their progressive style helps take songs from "mournful" lows to incredibly grand melodies that are not easily matched. I'd say they are about 75% fast tremolo picked riffs with nice blast beats carrying them along, and 25% slower break downs. The drums are quite dynamic compared to most black metal and are almost in constant transition along with the guitars. The blast beats are not played the same every time nor are the slower more standard sections, plenty of fills, double bass rolls and extra hits of the snare or cymbals are present. It's no technical death metal drumming, but anything more show-offish could ruin their delicate style.
They make good use of all the strings on their guitars with some deep dark riffs that scale up to the brighter moments. The songs don't have much of a structure, they just keep going different directions instead of running back and forth between riff A, B and C. Their vocalist's scratchy howls are lower in pitch than many standard black metal screamers, but he does exercise some range. You could say their music overall is quite haunting and atmospheric, but it's really just uncommonly well executed black metal. Mourning Forest is a surprisingly killer band and I highly recommend checking out both of their full lengths as well.
Moving onto the Sad side of the split. The vocals are really the only thing that give away when the Sad side of the split starts. Sad's vocals are more in the raspy, painful scream department. The vocal arrangements also follow the flow of the music quite well and help everything come together (anti)harmoniously. Both guitars and even the bass all stand out on their own providing a dense wall of sound to bang your head against in despair. The rhythm guitar shreds along with a lower, raw sound while the lead guitar is a lot smoother and generally plays higher scaled riffs. Sad's style has been fairly consistent over their last few releases (and career) you can expect riff after riff of blistering, melodic subterranean passages.
The drumming is mostly blast beat oriented with a fill or cymbal clash here and there usually when transitioning quickly between riffs. Sometimes you get a slower beat while the guitars still go full speed, but any slowness is short lived. Sad excel in conjuring up this triumphantly depressing emotion through their music while still being relentlessly fast. I have been a fan of Sad for years, but these are some of their best songs ever in my opinion.
This split clocks in at an hour and one minute with no intros, interludes, random noise, or lackluster songs. It's basically long enough to be considered two full length albums on one CD. I really can't pick out a best song by either band because every song could be the best. I dare two bands to make a better split!