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Four Unique Bands Create An Absorbing Experience - 90%

TheKEZ, September 25th, 2012

It’s a good time to be a Horseback fan, with mastermind Jenks Miller putting out a large number of splits, EPs and collaborative releases in addition to his Relapse backed album output whilst maintaining an alarming degree of consistency. This limited cassette split is a fine case in point, a showcase for four bands that have mutated black metal influences to fit their own personalised musical manifesto, often with thrilling results.

Horseback’s sole track here, ‘Heathen Earth’, begins with a repetitive groove with an oddly funky swagger, before building into a hypnotic coda with an ancient, earthy feel; a late night campfire ritual to prepare the voyager for the turbulent times to come. As ever, Miller’s vocals are impeccable, lending the proceedings a sinister air with his screeched black metal croaks. The song is so enveloping that it’s almost a shock when it eventually winds down, a testament to how engaging Miller’s songcraft has become. This is a worthy addition to what is quickly becoming an impressive and staggering body of work, and it’s a joy to watch this visionary artist continue his unstoppable ascent. Bravo!

Njiqahdda are a band with one of those daunting discographies that implies the members never sleep, eat or do anything but create distraught, forward thinking black metal. This is the first release of theirs to find its way to my eardrums, and it’s a great introduction. Their 11 minute mini-opus ‘Towers Constructed To Break The Sky’ is a grand and imposing behemoth, full of surprises and inventive twists and turns. There’s quite a blatant Neurosis influence at play here, occasionally veering into demented progressive sludge territory which thrillingly recalls ‘Remission’ era Mastodon at times (the precise octopus-on-DMT drumming is strongly reminiscent of Brann Dailor in his prime). The band doesn’t sacrifice any of their emotional gut punch for technical wizardry though, maintaining an intense and cathartic atmosphere throughout and providing a fascinating counterpoint to Horseback’s more subdued contribution.

Side B delves further into chaos, and Venowl’s disgusting lo-fi filth churns like a stomach full of vomit, spewing forth vile emanations that alternate between sounding like a heavily sedated Mayhem and the sickening tumble of a maggot strewn corpse being plunged into an open sewer. Their contribution is easily the most terrifying addition to the split, a rancid display of anguish that will put hairs on your chests and bleak, twisted visions in your pineal gland. In just over 6 minutes these guys manage to leave you coiled in the foetal position and begging for mercy, and yet strangely yearning for more. A great listen, and a band I’ll certainly be investigating more!

Cara Neir’s fusion of post rock, black metal and screamo may sound atrociously trite on paper but in practice it’s actually quite stunning, as evidenced by their recent string of EPs and excellent split with the mighty Ramlord. Their first offering ‘Minus His Confidence’ reads from a more traditional black metal blueprint, recalling Emperor as they gradually moved from their filthy beginnings to embrace more classical elements. ‘No Right Path’ explodes with a furious 90’s hardcore rampage before taking a detour via some deliciously evil riffs (hand-picked from the Scandinavian fjords) and a ripping solo courtesy of Noisear’s Dorian Rainwater all in the space of two minutes, and ‘Seize And Exist’s cavernous and cathartic majesty is a thing to behold. The way this band interweave seemingly incompatible influences into an engaging and passionate whole is impressive, and the quality of their material hasn’t dipped despite their prolific nature, making Cara Neir an extremely exciting proposition.

A release like this doesn’t really fit under the umbrella of black metal, but any debate over whether it should or not is a moot point; what’s infinitely more fascinating is how this release stands as testament to the widespread influence that this most infamous of genres has had. Each band contained demonstrates how a single aspect of the black metal sound can be isolated and placed within an entirely new context, without losing any of its spine chilling intensity. This split tape is an esoteric gem, presenting the listener with four very different and original bands who are nevertheless intertwined through shared influences and certain thematic associations. Whenever the next smug nostalgia addict opines that “there’s no good music being made nowadays”, smile sweetly and assure them that we’ve seen nothing yet…

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