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Black Altar / Kirkebrann Split - 93%

Edmund Sackbauer, September 3rd, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, CD, Odium Records (Digipak)

Black Altar are a pretty long-running black metal outfit, having been founded back in 1996 in Poland. The main man behind this band calling himself Shadow is also running Odium Records where he not only releases his own stuff but also other promising acts. The latest output has been a split of his own Black Altar brand and the Norwegians from Kirkebrann. The two bands form an excellent symbiosis on “Deus Inversus”, with both bringing a very classic sound to the table without sounding too samey.

It is hard to tell who makes the bigger impression. Thankfully this decision is not one that has to be made, as I really enjoyed all the songs here. Maybe Black Altar come across a tad more aggressive and expansive, throwing some epic and symphonic moments into the mix, with Kirkebrann being slightly more raw in their approach. Black Altar starts the show with 2 tracks and an outro, with the two full-blown songs both being brilliant and captivating. The fiery tremolo attacks are hitting with full force, but it becomes immediately evident that melody plays a similarly important role for Shadow. The main ingredients are sinister black metal chords, accompanied by the typical relentless drum patterns. Both outfits have a great feeling for weaving some intricate harmonies into the overall soundscape, giving the songs an atmospheric feeling. The howling vocals by Shadow are the icing on the cake here.

Kirkebrann managed to deliver a very frosty and classic vibe and mood, thanks to the atmospheric guitar riffs and the harsh sound. The feel inside is rather hostile and misanthropic, which is well compensated by the melancholy emitted from the other side. Tempo variations are thrown in for good measure, and you can expect anything varying from blasting furies, to groovier parts, to some slower patterns. Singer Draug is screaming and nagging in classic manner.

The production of the whole split is fantastic, with Black Altar having chosen a more dynamic and powerful approach and Kirkebrann going for a bit of a rougher style. I personally slightly prefer the sound of Black Altar, with the two songs being prime examples of modern yet classic black metal. Both outfits have done an amazing job here and I think that “Deus Inversus” might end up as my personal favorite split of 2020. With a total running time of more than 30 minutes fans get their money’s worth and I for one am excited to keep track of what both bands are going to do next in the future.