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Life is like a box of black metal - 87%

Napero, June 17th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2005, 3CD, Northern Heritage Records

Crushing the Holy Trinity is an interesting compilation. In fact, it's such an interesting compilation that it has made the Metal Archives used to stretch the criteria and rules on split albums beyond comfort, and despite the fact that the official rules used say that a compilation may only have five bands on it before it turns from a split to a V/A compilation in the eyes of the Metal Archives. Well, Crushing the Holy Trinity has six bands on it, and still it's been found on this very database. Was it fair? Maybe not, if you wish to play the part of a rules lawyer. Is it worth the special treatment? Weeelll... maybe. The package is extraordinary, especially in the vinyl format, and the nice balance and quality make it certain to go a long way beyond the various compilations that are meant to be excluded by the five-band rule.

As far as this kind of special boxes go, Crushing the Holy Trinity could well be downplayed as a grotesque autofellatio performance by Mikko Aspa. He's a member of three out of the six bands on the compilation, and no doubt has affiliations that go beyond simple record deal with the three others. It may very well be a case of misguided self-importance and exhibitionism, but that's beside the point; most of the people who own the box most probably have a public Facebook or MySpace page, and any complaints are therefore invalid. What matters is the music, and since the item under scrutiny is a compilation, the balance and lineup of bands.

Father: The atmospheric part

The first part, Father, holds just two tracks, "Diabolus Absconditus" by Deathspell Omega, and "Above Him" by Stabat Mater. They are both Aspa's own bands, and on Crushing the Holy Trinity, they form something that could be called the "atmospheric" part of the compilation.

Deathspell Omega steps outside the traditional black metal zone of comfort, and explores a more emotional and perhaps post-black metal areas. "Diabolus Absconditus", with its 22-minute length, contains many parts, covers a multitude of emotions, and features several vocal styles by Aspa. The lyrics wander around, making little sense beyond esoteric allegories and search for truth on the existence and nature of god, spoken, growled, sung or yelled in various styles, and fit the music surprisingly well. Traditional black metal and songwriting conventions have been abandoned, and the long song goes through enough variations and parts to hold enough material for an EP with half a dozen songs on it. And yet, it works as a single song, atmospheric and snaking.

Deathspell Omega, if this really is a representative example of their works, could well be compared to such bands as Agalloch or Opeth. The music, focusing on atmosphere more than on rage, aggression, blasphemy or depression, circumspectly makes a deceptive promise to provide an over-thought version of traditional black metal, and does so by breaking down the formula, combining it with pieces from post-metallic wall of sound, Opeth-esque multitude of parts, and atmospheric guitar wails. The atmosphere has an ethereal quality despite the crushing sound, and the whole is somehow reminiscent of The Axis of Perdition's semi-ambient anxiety. The combination of Aspa's preaching and grunting on the foreground, the prominent lead guitar competing for space in the sound, and the pseudo-raw production pretends to invoke chaos and mayhem, but eventually work more logically than expected. Fundamentally, a large fraction of the song is something else than metal, and that something is more interested in providing a strong emotional contrast to the angrier and more depressive parts of the song than actually leading an onslaught. Yes, this will tempt fans of bands like Agalloch, Opeth, Cult of Luna and others, and perhaps even give birth to plenty of metalheads who never really like metal, and rather flock to hear something that evokes emotions and works on levels that actual metal never even thinks about.

Stabat Mater, on the other edge of the envelope, is raw, primordial funeral doom. "Above Him" is almost 18 minutes long, and manages to capture the inherent and genre-defining nihilism extremely well, and blend it with the atmosphere of slow black metal. The production reeks of a mixture of old-schoolish black metal and sludge, but there are several sections where additional elements form new and tasty layers on the basic abrasive raw doom. Still, the whole is based on being rude and nihilistic, and the additions just decorate the cake instead of replacing the gravel filling.

The Stabat Mater track is obviously much more traditional than Deathspell Omega's contribution, but somehow the disc finds an odd balance, and ends up being the most atmospheric of the three, even if the two weighty songs find their state of equilibrium only by residing in the very opposite ends of the scale, so far away from their common fulcrum that it should tip one way or the other. In the context of the whole Crushing the Holy Trinity, Father is the tasty canapé, an atmospheric appetizer that is intended to prepare the palate for the heavier courses. Sure, the canapé is 40 minutes long and consists of two completely different ingredients, but compared to the rest of the whole, it is light and rather emotional.

Son: The traditional part

Out of the three discs, Son represents the traditional values, the basic black metal formula in the way most Joe Sixsixsixpack aficionados are used to hearing it. Musta Surma's four tracks and Clandestine Blaze's three, fortified with a minute-long intro, total barely over half an hour, and perhaps even that is a tribute to old-fashioned black values.

Musta Surma is the most down-to-earth (and below) old-school black metal band on the whole compilation. The band's music has a very finnish character, and comparing them to Horna is the easiest description ever available to any reviewer. The sound is somewhat tinny with occasional feedback squeals, and the production may sound raw, but actually uses its subtle finesse to make every instrument perfectly audible. The music is heavily based on riffs, and tempo changes abound. Musta Surma is also the only band on the whole Crushing the Holy Trinity with lyrics in Finnish. Very traditional, very likable, and extremely honest in its no-bells-nor-whistles policy. Unlike the bands on Father, this should delight virtually any black metal fan, no matter what the more detailed specifics of his leanings are.

Clandestine Blaze is the last band with Mikko Aspa in it one the compilation, and actually a one man band at that. On the three tracks after the one-minute intro, Aspa takes a step or two away from the most traditional black metal, but still steers clear of any modern shenanigans. The crushing, almost bloated guitar sound hides a songwriting style that does not really differ much from De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas era Mayhem, but the crunchy throbbing sound with its layer of muffling static on top of the guitar tone gives the songs a new kind of facade. There are a couple of very nice riffs, repeated too long, and the tempos vary, from the crushing slowness of "Trophy" to the speeding of "Behind the Faith". Eventually, Clandestine Blaze's contribution falls short of Musta Surma's tracks, though. But not very far.

Both bands on Son are more likely to appeal to a traditional black metal fan than anything on the other two parts, save for Mgla's solid and credible contribution on Holy Spirit. Musta Surma, with its rustic sound that harks back to the fundamentals and tastes of dirt, anger and tradition, may even be said to be the best band on the whole Crushing the Holy Trinity, but considering the rather wide scale of bands on the compilation, that is naturally very subjective. Son, however, definitely holds the top position among the three parts of the package. There's no denying the value of basic values.

Holy Spirit: The angry part

The third part of the box, Holy Spirit, increases the dosage of anger and blasphemy, and brings more modern elements into the play after the relatively traditional Son, especially after Mgla has delivered its payload of four tracks and Exordium gets it turn. Still, the deviations from traditional black metal are nothing to worry about, old times are not forgotten on Holy Spirit, either.

Mgla is the only non-finnish band on the whole Crushing the Holy Trinity, but the band's black metal fits the compilation extremely well. Faster, rawer and angrier than any of the earlier bands on the compilation, Mgla has a mildly more modern raw production than the bands on Father or Son, but still keeps things much more old-schoolish than Exordium after it. Mgla's metal is quite high-tempo, warlike pure black metal, and quite angry, or perhaps more accurately, disillusioned and bad-tempered. Orthodox black metal riffing saturates the four tracks, and the entirety is very concise, monolithic, and would work extremely well as a separate EP.

Mgla's spot on the three discs is almost fitting. Almost. While Father holds the two bands with more atmospheric and unorthodox black metal, and Son could almost be seen as a tribute to the old days, Holy Spirit is the fast, angry, raw, and perhaps a tad more modern than the other two, especially as far as Exordium's contribution goes. Musta Surma, with its faithful attention to old-school black metal, first gives way to Clandestine Blaze's slightly fractured tradition, and Mgla is the bridge between Clandestine Blaze's music and Exordium's modern interpretation of the same themes.

The final band, Exordium, has the most modern, and perhaps the most middle-of-the-road output on the whole Crushing the Holy Trinity. Unfortunately, it's also the only band that invites the use of the word "mediocre" in the whole box. While the music is in no way bad as it is, it also lacks the defining something that would define it as a band worthy of the other's company. It simply lacks individual character, and sinks in the morass of modern run-of-the-mill black metal. The production is easily the sharpest on the three discs, and the slight fuzz on the guitar tone is obviously more intentional seasoning than an essential ingredient. Tempos vary, riffs come and go, but the fundamental ideas are either lacking or lackluster. The inclusion of Exordium on the compilation seems as an afterthought, or at least a less than well considered idea. Especially the final track, "Unevangel", is an extended, repetitive and frankly boring piece of work in its stretched slowness.

Holy Spirit ends up as the only part that lacks balance or a theme on Crushing the Holy Trinity. Mgla is a perfect participant on the box, and while Exordium definitely has potential, it has no musical charcteristics that connect it in any way to Mgla or any of the other bands. If Mgla works as a more furious continuation of the music and bands on Son, Exordium is disconnected from the rest, and remains alone even if Father's atmospheric and emotional bands are taken into account. Thus, despite Mgla's convincing and dedicated contribution, and admirable attempt at bridging the gap, Holy Spirit would be the part worth the lowest rating.

So what shall be the final ruling on this ambitious, surprisingly well-known, and weirdly interesting collection of blackness? From the atmospheric and tradition-abandoning novelty of Father, through Son's faithful old-school spirit, to Holy Spirit's imbalance, the compilation stretches a long way, and somehow Exordium manages to be the only real miss among the six bands. The order of preference between the first two discs is, of course, a matter of taste, and there certainly are those who would reverse the ruling on the final pair of bands, but to an older metal fans, Musta Surma, Clandestine Blaze and Mgla, with the possible addition of Stabat Mater, are the real treasures here. Deathspell Omega has its own following, and there surely are those to whom DsO's single track is the nugget of gold. In other words, it might be difficult to find a black metal connoisseur with a taste so broad that none of the bands would seem redundant to him.

On the other hand, the compilation has an internal logic that only stubles a bit on Holy Spirit. It has an obvious order, a progression, and certainly goes above the sum of its parts. It is worth its price, as long as you can avoid being completely ripped off by a zit-faced bugger on eBay. And maybe, to an ideologically charged person, it might be a statement, a thesis and a manifesto. But that must be judged by someone actually interested in that state of mind.

As a compilation, Crushing the Holy Trinity can definitely be recomended.

thorns grow out from scars - 82%

Storfeth, July 8th, 2013

Back in 2005, Northern Heritage released a compilation of three splits under the name “Crushing the Holy Trinity”. As someone can easily imagine, one split went under the name Father, the other under the name Son, and the third one was named Holy Spirit. In this case we’re dealing with the third and last part that appears to be more straightforward and traditional than the two previous ones.

Four Mgła tracks open this split and they sound different than the sound that the Polish have adopted nowadays. These four compositions sound very primitive and raw and really demonstrate M’s talent in songwriting. Of course, the ideas at times sound immature, but this is perfectly normal since this was the very first release for the band. Here we’re not listening only to the familiar negative and ominous sound of Mgła, but also some more aggressive and black ‘n’ roll moments that offer some nice diversity. Nevertheless, the lyrics have the same philosophical and Satanic essence that still characterizes them at present. The only bad thing was that I had a really hard time deciphering them from the booklet of the CD version, since they were very tiny and difficult to read. But all this effort was totally worth it at the end.

As for Exordium, this was my first contact with them and at times I found them quite interesting. Their Finnish origin is obvious in their music as they demonstrate some riffs and melodies that have characterized the whole scene. Sometimes they are ferocious, while other times they really choose to slow the pace, such as in “Unevangel”. But despite their good performance, I really have to note two negative facts. Firstly, at some point in the closing track I lost my interest and I think that it should have really ranged from five to six minutes. The constant repetition for nine minutes didn’t offer anything special so it was a poor choice. Also I have to mark the bad production. I don’t really have a problem with raw productions. Quite the contrary, but in this case the sound of the drums and especially the hi-hat and the crash sounded very fuzzy and noisy at times.

This release is certainly above the average quality of a black metal split. Mgła really showed their potential already from their first attempt, while Exordium had a decent performance, but could have been much better. This part is the ideal closing for this split compilation and with its anger it will definitely offer you some great moments.

Originally written for: The Lair of Storfeth

Quite possibly the best compilation of all time. - 100%

mutiilator, February 6th, 2006

The first contribution to this 3 LP/CD compilation is that of Deathspell Omega. In the vein of their preceding mini-LP Kenose, DSO’s side is one lengthy track. “Diabolus Absconditus” also follows the same sound as the mLP, starting off as slow and brooding, only to eventually break into a blistering aural assault. Yet one would think that this would become cumbersome with a single song that clocks over 22 minutes. Yet, DSO is able to keep things interesting with changing tempo, an excellently depressing 5-minute acoustic section (reminiscent of something Shining would do), and Mikko’s trademark snarling vocals.

The second half of the first disc is the second of three Mikko-related bands. Stabat Mater is easily one of the best, and most depressing, funeral/suicidal/whatever doom metal bands of all time. I first heard them on a split EP with Worship from several years ago, contributing the track “Give Them Pain”, and was immediately enthralled but the general hateful atmosphere and malevolent despair of the music. For Crushing the Holy Trinity, Stabat Mater took one of their previous tracks, “Above Him”, and rerecorded it, stretching it to a whopping 17 minutes. This is some of the most gut-wrenching, soul-raping doom metal ever, complete with sampled monk chants and clearly showing Mikko’s noise/industrial influences throughout.

Overall this is a brilliant start to an amazing compilation and is well worth the price of the entire set on its own. Each CD comes in its own plastic sleeve amidst a cool fold out cardboard “case” complete with a lyrics book (not sure exactly what the LP packaging is like, as they were sold out when I got around to ordering a copy). I definitely recommend this comp if you can find one.

Not surprisingly, two more Finnish bands make up disc two of this three disc compilation. The first four tracks are courtesy of Musta Surma – a well-established black metal band who likes to utilize different tempos of drumming to keep thing from stagnating, paired up with tremolo riffing, growled vocals, and Finnish lyrics. This is pretty standard black metal, though it is well executed.

The third Mikko project comes in the form of his most well-known band, Clandestine Blaze. CB is notorious for its heavy, riff-based black metal with Mikko’s thick vocals. After a short intro, two of the three following tracks are somewhat slower and more head-bang worthy. The final track, though, “Behind the Faith”, is simply a brutal display of power with fast riffing and consistent blast beats. With about two minutes remaining, the maelstrom abruptly eases into an ambient intro, which finishes off disc two.

This is yet another strong collection of music on the Crushing the Holy Trinity compilation. Though not as breakthrough as the first disc, Musta Surma and Clandestine Blaze are quite competent and able to keep the quality of the release high.

Holy Spirit:
The only non-Finnish band to contribute to this 3 CD/LP compilation is Mgła, who hail from Poland. The four “Power and Will” tracks which makes up their side all have the same title, differentiated only by an ascending Roman numeral (in the Taake image). After the Deathspell Omega/Stabat Mater disc, this is the next best part of the comp. Mgła boast an old school feel to their riff-oriented black metal, and bands like Darkthrone and Moonblood come to mind, though they are able to distance themselves from the numerous clones which exist these days. The vocals are quite raspy and incomprehensible (though the lyrics are in English), but nevertheless, the riffing is excellent and the overall musicianship is above par. Outstanding.

The final side is that of yet another Finnish, and relatively unknown, band. After an interesting intro, complete with odd female vocals, “Tyrannia Martyrum” blasts into focus. Exordium’s sound is quite raw, and the production level reflects this. Overall they remind me of fellow countrymen, Behexen in the general brutality and style of the music. Though the first two tracks are chock full of constant blasting, the final track, “Unevangel”, slows down the pace and sums everything off with an excellent 9 minute hymn of sin and darkness.

Though the second disc is a bit weak compared to the rest of this release, the first and third discs are well worth the cost of the 3 CDs/LPs. Crushing the Holy Trinity truly is a fist in the face of God, and from beginning to end will evoke a truly hateful emotion from within. This compilation highlights some of today’s best metal acts (mainly those from Finland), and gives a light of hope for those interested in seeing the future of black metal live on.