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Stunning - 85%

JJM1, January 25th, 2014

Released nearly a month after the bands most recent full-length, 'Sentinel,' Spectral Lore partners up with fellow Greeks in Locust Leaves for this two song split album. Limited to just 300 numbered copies (mine is 235), the split comes packaged in what looks almost like an album sized matchbook, while the CD itself is in a paper sleeve, which has the lyrics from both bands printed in English and Greek.

Spectral Lore kicks off the split with the fifteen minute, 'Duty,' which begins with a slightly calmer and more melodic approach than the material found on 'Sentinel.' Noticeably, Ayloss opts for a more raspy shrieking vocal style rather than the guttural approach from the album, though the main vocals are complemented with some cleaner and more narrative moments too.

For the first several minutes the song moves between this style with a slightly progressive edge and what feels like a myriad of riffs before arriving to a smooth acoustic section shortly after the six minute mark. Moving between both acoustic and heavier parts for the next few minutes, the song reaches a point of utter chaos and with a underscore of epicness somewhere after the eight and half minute line, and continues as so until a little into the eleventh minute. From there the ensuing lead is absolutely beautiful and majestic in its delivery while the song evens out and gives way to a few remaining minutes of heroic symphonic ambiance and militaristic percussion as this unbelievable piece of music fades away. Overwhelmingly gorgeous, is the only way I could describe it... WOW!

Locust Leaves continues the split with a song titled, 'Promise,' though a little background on the band is surely needed. Locust Leaves have been secretly making music for about ten years now, though I believe this is the first material released in any sort of physical format, thus sort of unlocking the secret. I'm really not sure if Locust Leaves is a solo effort like Spectral Lore, but one thing is for sure and that happens to be that this band has influenced Ayloss' work greatly.

'Promise' initially hits harder and more up front, again quite melodic and filled with riffs. The beginning offers up a few parts that sound distinctively death metal, pummeling and aggressive, though the song largely lacks the more atmospheric touch of, 'Duty,' at first. Shortly into the third minute, the song goes soft with lush acoustics, and a spoken passage amongst a more progressive backbone as the song continues. From there the vocals shift to a more gravely sick rasp while the music itself stays rather tranquil but moves towards a more aerial and slightly epic territory with cleanly spoken vocals for its remaining time.

Totaling in at just a little under thirty minutes, this split allows the listener a passage into the world of these two unique Greek entities. Seeing that its quite limited I'd have to advise you to act fast, because its absolutely worth it regardless if just two songs are present. It should be interesting to see if the next album from Spectral Lore is similar to this, 'Sentinel' or something completely different. Similarly, I look forward to hearing more from Locust Leaves as soon as possible.

Originally wrote for, Lunar Hypnosis: http://lunarhypnosis.blogspot.com/

Artistry and agony squared - 72%

autothrall, September 17th, 2012

Having explored the latest Spectral Lore album Sentinel before this split, I can't say I was quite so surprised at the level of quality on exhibition. However, there were a few tonal shifts in Ayloss' offering here that diverged ever so slightly from the full-length, and I was likewise impressed by the pairing with another promising act called Locust Leaves, whom I've never heard before, but match up rather well in terms of the effort and ambition they bring into the black metal spectrum. Each of the bands has penned a massive composition for the split, two tracks clocking in at nearly a half-hour, and they give us a good glimpse of what makes the clockwork of each project tick.

Spectral Lore's offering, "Duty" opens with warmer melodic textures than I'd expect, but reeks of a similar, fell glory to Bathory's later 80s/early 90s material, or perhaps the more matured, mid-paced Immortal. That said, it's still a veritable riff-fest, eventually gathering speed to gallantly escalate into a mountainous crescendo, before coming back down to a calm segue of acoustic guitars. The vocals are mildly less ominous and guttural than I found on Sentinel, assuming more of a thicker, Burzum-esque, tormented rasp, which is complemented with various, cleaner, narrative passages for variation. While I think ultimately I preferred the full-length's calculated, schizoid sense of purpose, I must say that the last 5-6 minutes of this 15 minute monolith, with the lilting leads and the closing ambiance, were breathtaking. By comparison, the companion piece "Promise" by Locust Leaves, is more dense and in your face, lacking some of the airiness that Spectral Lore revels in. Sensual, whispered periods of tranquility are alternated with harried with blasting, bloodsoaked, gruesome drums and vocals, but the band also creates an enormous atmospheric bridge with clean, melodic vocals and guitars that reminds me of a more tormented 90s Anathema.

All told, we're getting a glimpse here into two of the brighter, more comprehensive acts in the Greek scene which should be taken notice of, since each has a highly defined, refined sense of expression you're unlikely to experience in the more primitive Hellenic underground. I wouldn't say that I enjoyed this split riff-for-riff, since a few of the note progressions lost my attention, but especially in the case of Spectral Lore, which is a single man performing all instruments, the effort is incalculable. The production's a bit better balanced on "Duty" than "Promise", or at least more to my liking, but otherwise the two acts pair up quite well. Fans of atmospheric, experimental black metal which doesn't shy away from dramatic, emotional effect would do well to pursue these names.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com