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Incredible black metal split. - 90%

Kriegsminister, June 10th, 2004

Although I myself am generally not a huge fan of splits, I have to say that this one is pretty fucking awesome. It features four bands -- Krieg (USA), Eternal Majesty (France), Judas Iscariot (USA/Germany), and Macabre Omen (Greece) -- which is something that's pretty rare nowadays. Absence tends to make the heart grow fonder, however, and I'll admit that I'm very fond of this work. I'll discuss each band's contribution.

KRIEG

My first experience with this band was 'Destruction Ritual,' and I fell in love with the completely hellish production combined with the actual musical annihilation. I was sort of caught off-guard by the production of the Krieg tracks here, as I was expecting the same type of overly-distorted wash presented on the aforementioned 'Destruction Ritual.' Still, it's easy to get past that when you hear the music itself. A different version of 'A Crumbling Shrine' was present on 'Destruction Ritual,' so it was nice to hear a prototypical version of my favorite song from that album presented here. 'Thrones of Wrath,' the other "real" Krieg song here is good, but not perfect. It's got a very anemic sound that manages to detract from the quality of it, despite the fact that it's a decently written song. The other two Krieg tracks, 'Embers of Passage' and 'Ceremonial Inversion,' are intro and outro tracks, respectively. The former starts off rather gently, lulling the listener into a false sense of security before bludgeoning him with the brutality of 'A Crumbling Shrine.' The latter is a good way to wind things down and it creates a very, shall we say, uneasy feeling. I wouldn't have it any other way.

ETERNAL MAJESTY

I had never even heard of this band before this split, so I have no experience whatsoever with their music beyond what is presented here. It's a real shame, too, since I really liked what I heard. Eternal Majesty reminds me of Horna in places, but places more of an emphasis on melody and harmonic structure than their Finnish counterparts. The vocalist from Eternal Majesty sounds almost exactly like the one from Seigneur Voland (another French band) but since I like that band, that's a good thing. 'Soyons Les Pierres du Temple Noir' (which means something like 'Make Us the Stones of the Black Temple') is very much thrash-influenced and is completely unrelenting. The next song, 'Pandaemonium,' has a very epic feel to it, despite the fact that it clocks in at under 5 minutes. Despite its melodic structure, it too is a very aggressive song, almost boiling over with violence. In addition to having a very authentic and exuberant feeling, it is also competently-written and played...a combination that one sadly doesn't find too often today. Unlike many other French bands, Eternal Majesty is totally lacking in the "suicidal black metal" department, which should be a great relief to everyone. Their final song, 'Under The Sign Of Evil,' is also in the epic vein and is longer than its predecessor. Based on this admittedly cursory evaluation, it seems as if Eternal Majesty is destined for great things if they can continue making such consistently good music.

JUDAS ISCARIOT

Well, what can I say? It's early JI material. Although the material here is good, it's not quite up to par with Judas Iscariot's later works ('Heaven In Flames,' 'Distant In Solitary Night'). The production here is very thin as well, but that doesn't prevent me from enjoying it. 'Babylon In Ruin' is an early version of the song called 'Babylon' that appeared on 'The Cold Earth Slept Below,' and though I think the second version was better, this one is good as well. The next song, 'Unholy Victory,' is pretty unremarkable thrash-influenced stuff. It's a fast song, but it just lacks substance. 'In Den Qualen Der Hölle" ('In Hell's Torments') is a step up, but in my opinion, the best Judas Iscariot contribution is the next track: an early version of 'The Cold Earth Slept Below' (the second version of which appears on the album of the same name). I actually prefer this version to the album one, which I think is pretty slow-moving. This one is faster-paced and I think the speed combined with the thin production suits this song far better than the album version. There's a four minute ambient outro on here that is the best of all the ones on the split (as opposed to Eternal Majesty's intro as well as Krieg's intro and outro) and although I feel the Judas Iscariot portion could have been better, it still manages to satisfy the listener.

MACABRE OMEN

Like Eternal Majesty, I had never even heard of this band before this split. That too is a shame, because Macabre Omen sounds like a very skilled and intelligent band based on these two tracks. Although I don't understand why a Greek band would write in Dutch, 'Voor Donker Zullen We Heersen' ('From the Dark shall We Rule') is a fast-paced black metal song that recalls early Master's Hammer and it's hard to argue with success. The vocalist from Macabre Omen reminds me of either the vocalist from Gontyna Kry or Maniac from Mayhem...for some reason, the glass-gargling sound has always appealed to me. Their next song ('We Won With War'), however, is in my opinion the best on the entire split (with the possible exception of 'A Crumbling Shrine,' but I suppose I'm biased in that regard). It too has a very epic feel to it, and it reminds me of a more up-tempo version of something you might find on Graveland's "Following The Voice Of Blood." The song itself is very warlike (as you may or may not hae guessed from the title) and concludes with a clean guitar/vocal passage that is almost unintelligible because of the massive reverb, but still delivers. Unfortunately, these two were the only songs Macabre Omen contributed, which gives me musical blue-balls considering how great the stuff sounds. Also like Eternal Majesty, I think Macabre Omen has the potential to make truly killer stand-alone albums, so long as they can keep up the level of quality presented here.

Overall, it's impossible to go wrong with this split. I highly recommend it to every fan of black metal as well as those looking for a good introduction to the genre. This split is, in my opinion, one of the best ever made. I think it's sort of funny that the two "popular" bands on here more or less get smoked by the two "unknowns," but that's faint damnation given the high quality of their own contributions. Rather, it's a testament to the even greater quality of the contributions from Eternal Majesty and Macabre Omen. Awesome material from all parties involved.