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I just love splits. You hear a bit more of a band you love, and they are a great way to find out about other awesome stuff. Sometimes, they are just a good way to check out two bands you've never heard of before, for cheap, very little commitment due to the tiny run time, all because the artwork is so goddamn cool. like with this one.
Black Liturgies of Sathanas/ I Observe From Under is a joint effort from the Greeks in Almighty Sathanas (their second split, following two demos) and Sargatanas - somewhat more established, these Mexicans date back to 1986 and have full-lengths under their belt. In terms of technicality and experience they overwhelm their collaborators, but Almighty Sathanas shine with all the unspent evil of a band just starting out.
Their two tracks add up to under five minutes, but Almighty Sathanas raise many a fell spirit in that time with their two tracks of oppressive, racing black death metal. I would probably give a full album of this ghostly sound 90+. The charging, only-just-audible yet somehow all-surrounding drums and harrowing tremolo-picked guitar add up to create monochromatic images of perverse rituals in the forests at night. The pace is great, charging along with the guitars throbbing along slower than the battered kit. The tone is less a buzzsaw than a swarm of mosquitos right outside the window (a really big one!), while the various parts of the drum kit are largely indistinquishable from one another during a less than careful listen. The vocals bellow out imposingly above all this. Overall the material is more ferocious, less methodical, than their previous recordings, rawer and better for it.
More a pure death metal band in the vein of early Finnish bands, Sargatanas actually sound very much like the Swedish Runemagick at the beginning of their track - gloomy, methodical death metal with nary a catchy chord in sight, before growing into menacing picked riffs. Nevertheless, 'I Observe From Under' packs quite a punch in its own right and the vocals of Anathema's God (that's his name, both words) are appropriately thuggish and cruel. In addition to the rippling muscle of the tremolo riffs that colour the track, the solo is incredibly good, flickering back and forth compellingly enough to bring your head off your shoulders.
Sargatanas are satisfying on many levels for the death metal cultist, but ultimately lacking the dark magicka of Almighty Sathanas - that much becomes clear when they are lined up together. It is also clear from the fact that Almighty Sathanas claim the A-side here, as they did when joining Blasphemophagher and Tyrants Blood for a split album in 2008. Worth a look for anyone looking to find some rare death metal without a modern sheen in sight, as both these bands are very capable and this split has received many plays from me. And watch out for those Greek fellas. I will be doing.