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Competent enough split but not fresh or original - 67%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, October 16th, 2013

Xasthur I'm familiar with, having heard several of his recordings and seen a documentary on Youtube about him, Leviathan and Striborg; Nortt, I confess I hadn't even heard of until recently. So this split does double duty in linking me back to an act I know and introducing me to someone I don't know but who I can guess works in the same depressive black metal sub-genre.

Nortt's contribution on the whole is as pitch-black bottomless depressive as can be: it labours under a heavy, oppressive burden and the sound is open-wound raw. Not only are the guitars abrasive to the point of bleeding afresh every time the strings are hit but Nortt's swamp-monster vocal could strip wads of paint and wallpaper off walls like a slow death-by-1,000-cuts torture. Pain oozes from every droning tone and chord in every riff. Plaintive single-note piano melody emphasises the dread expressed in the main body of the music. Although Nortt has four tracks on this split, the first three are not very distinct from one another and can be heard as one continuous set. He rounds off his set with an all-ambient instrumental piece of melancholy chamber music synth strings in which two sets of synth tones appear to call out in vain to each other.

After Nortt, Xasthur almost seems like a happy lad with a relatively clean (though slightly fuzzy) guitar and soft-sounding percussion. The slightly more uplifting, blues-tinged mood doesn't last long thanks to Xasthur's customary use of off-key minor chords that send the music into darkling depths that suggest gradual and inexorable mental derangement. Compared to Nortt's side of the split, Xasthur's music is blurry and much less structured, and depends much more on creating and sustaining a particular mood with repetition; the effect is to immerse listeners into the mass of guitar noise created. One thing that Xasthur followers will notice is that Malefic's vocals are not a major part of the music (though it plays as though he should be there moaning and howling in most parts) but they are present as a distant ghostly presence.

Xasthur's side is relaxed in pace for the most part and holds few surprises for his fans: the emphasis is on maintaining a particular mood with a jewel-like, blues-tinged sound that includes a lot of strumming guitar. Something of the sultry Californian desert heat is captured here. A common complaint about Xasthur is that its music is monotonous, repetitive and boring, and while some of the music on this split could have been edited for length - once you're fully absorbed into the music, the potential for boredom that unvarying repetition carries is very high - I don't find the monotony too much of a problem, probably because I'm concentrating on the sound and atmosphere. The third track offered by Xasthur is perhaps the most interesting though, being a Gothic ambient instrumental with an enervated and decadent mood.

On the whole the music doesn't seem very original or fresh for either act and I'm guessing that Nortt might have done better work elsewhere. Xasthur has gone out of his comfort zone to some extent by electing to remove his vocal as an essential element in his style and allowing the guitars to take the leading role. Both musicians seize an opportunity to extend their range into melodic ambient instrumental and the results are a bit mixed: Xasthur does better with his Gothic Romance piece. The split serves as a competent introduction to both bands for listeners new to them and perhaps will be of interest to collectors of Nortt and Xasthur releases.

Disappointing somehow. - 50%

oneyoudontknow, December 4th, 2009

Nortt
The Gudsvorladt versions are much better …
55

The Danish band Nortt has gained some prominence over the years for creating really slow, dark and depressive art. Minimalist music, intense atmospheres and ambient facets – which have increased in their share over the years – may describe the basic facets of the band's performance. On this split album they appear with four tracks and these follow the funeral doom recipe. The guitars have an icy touch and as the riffs are played at a slow pace, their sound has been distorted by some additional reverb, by which the overall minimalist concept is overshadowed respectively compensated a bit. Compared to later versions of the tracks, see/hear the Gudsvorladt full-length, the raw sound of the whole concept has here a dominating influence on how the art is perceived; this would shift with succeeding releases. Moreover, the vocals appear with a larger array of styles here and beyond the often used growls, something like whispers is used to increase the overall tension and atmosphere of the music. The same can be said of the keyboards, which do not work as a texture in the background, but rather as something to add some motives now and then. In the background there are the drums and their part is merely to add momentum and set a basis for Nortt's performance. Further, Død og borte comes with some neat (church?) bell sample which work as a disruption of the monotonous and slowly pacing of the music; something similar but more intense would later be used on the Ligfærd album: Dødsrune. Interesting is an appropriate phrase to describe what is going on here. The music is really dark, the instruments and vocals work together nicely and it is no surprise that the four tracks on this split sparked some interest. Potential is certainly there, but at least from my perspective there is something going wrong here. What would that be?

First of all, even though the band is most certainly able to impress with their concept, they do fail in creating a really convincing performance. At times the music is a bit dull and boring and especially the whispering-like vocals are a bit tiring and tend to strain my patience a bit. The monotonous and minimalist meandering of the riffs and motives is nice at times, but Nortt overdid it a bit. Even though it is a bit unfair to compare the tracks on this split with their later version of the Gudsvorladt album, it is necessary to do so in order to set them in the right light. Rather like a demo recording and not like something done professional is the impression some might get of what the Danish band offers here. Despite some nice moments like in Død og borte for instance, the overall quality is wanting and also a bit overdone; the 'everything is so miserable' card was played here, but without real success.

If you want to hear the version in their (full?) beauty, then the Gudsvorladt release is the one to turn to, because there these appear not only with slightly changed arrangements but also with a better production and sound. There, the band is much more able to create a sound atmosphere of depression and darkness.

Xasthur
Another split release by Xasthur … what a surprise.
45

Once the depressive atmosphere of Nortt is over the American band Xasthur takes over and resembles the style of the Danish one, but here with an emphasis on black metal. A dense and icy wall of guitars, an often melancholic atmosphere and a drum-computer in the background. Generally vocals, harsh and at times metallic screams, are an important facet of the band's oeuvre as well, but on this split their share is negligible; basically, the three compositions qualify as instrumentals. As the vocals, in Xasthur's oeuvre, work generally as a disruption from the monotony created by the instruments, the motives and riffs pass by without leaving much impression. Further, due to the absence of this element, a surprisingly amount of calmness can be identified in the concept of the band. Several times the listener might get the impression that something might happen soon – the curiosity is raised –, but this never really occurs. Malefic created music which follows the basic formula of the band, but left the 'peaks' out and reduced the overall style to something too 'nice and calm'.

Why instrumentals? What am I not getting here? Is there a special reason to have three instrumentals – I subsume the screams in Blood From the Roots of the Forest as an additional facet, like a sample and nothing that would qualify as 'full vocals' – on this split? Moreover, the aforementioned track sounds like a normal one just without the lyrics, as if something is missing and therefore pretty boring. What is the point of offering the compositions in this particular style? Where is the coherence between these? A Curse for the Lifeless reminds on an outro, while Blood From the Roots of the Forest is tiring due to its length and lack of outstanding facets and Lurking in Silence might be interesting as an interlude but most certainly not as an outro. So, the listener gets a weird arrangements of compositions here, which fail to create a consistent atmosphere, due to the way they have been put here as well as general absence of quality.

Final bits and bytes
This release is a bit of a disappointment. Nortt's performance offers too raw music, which has lost some of the atmosphere and bite. Being originally released in 2002 on the Hedengang ep, they give the impression of a home recording and only on Gudsvorladt they are able to shine in their (full?) potential. So, the part by the Danish band might be important to those who are interested in where the band originally started.

Xasthur on the other hand is merely a mixture of pieces thrown together from various releases or sessions. Accordingly, no real flow or consistent atmosphere will be created while listening to the music.

Darkness - 85%

uroboric, August 13th, 2007

This is an incredibly somber and dark split release by Nortt and Xasthur. Nortt begins the proceedings with "Hedengangen", an atmospheric dark metal track that is complete with depressing piano playing. Listening to the music makes one's mind begin to wander in aimless directions, absorbing and pulling you into the music. The guitars are very heavily distorted and slow, producing a heavy, unrelentingly heavy effect. The songwriting is excellent, revolving around a central theme and really conveying deep sadness. Nortt's black metal influenced vocals are very distant sounding screams and groans fading in and out with the music, complementing the songs quite nicely. Also adding to the dark atmosphere is the repetitive piano playing heard; it is really very eerie sounding. The piano sets the melody for the songs. The outro wraps things up effectively, with a droning melancholic tone.


Xasthur's "A Curse for the Lifeless" starts off with layered guitars, and a slightly more upbeat pace and tempo to the song. This side of the split suffers from slightly worse production than the Nortt side, with a somewhat blurry, worn out cassette tape sound. The programmed drums are kept in the background while the guitars set the mood by using clean tone over top of the distorted chords in the background. Vocals can be heard in the second Xasthur track, although very distorted and distant sounding. Double bass playing is more frequently used to complement the heavy atmosphere here. "Blood from the Roots of the Forest" is Xasthur's finest track herein; containing some very interesting key changes which convey a more complex musical mood. The clean guitar tone used here is really slick, lingering off into the darkness and distortion of the background. One of the main differences that set Nortt and Xasthur apart are the use of keyboards, which add tremendous reflection here and sound beautiful. Ambient keyboard/piano playing end the last track of the Xasthur side in an amazing way.


These two bands group together sorrowful tones in a way that should appeal to any fan of black/doom metal. The atmospherics provide for a completely depressing experience. Although it is rather draining and may not always fit your current mood, this release is excellent.

Depressive Black Metal - 98%

LordLegion, October 23rd, 2005

I have always loved Xasthur and Nortt. And I had just recently learned about the split album maybe a few months ago. Being hard as fuck to find it took me awhile to finally get it orderd from my local record store. When I finally received the cd I was knew that I would not be dissatisfied with the music. If theres one thing that Xasthur and Nortt is good at its showing true emotion into their music. When I was playing the cd in the car it started out with the intro to Nortt. I barely got into 30sec of the song Hedengangen (Intro) and I was already being pulled into depression. By the middle of Glemt, Instead of driving I pulled over to the side and just stared out.... Nortt has such an extreme uniqueness to his music that its almost impossible to not be interested. The Guitars are slow (as usual) but not boring, the synths used in Nortts instruments fit very well and add to the atmosphere very well. Nortts Vocals part camaflouges with the music beutifully. Instead of having the entire music revolve around vocals (like most bands do) everything was blended in so well that you can appreciate ever single instrument. When Nortt's part finished in the split album I was in a state of Dark Tranquility and anxiously I waited for the Xasthur's part to begin.

I was a bit hesitant with the Xasthur part because Malefic had realeased 4-5 albums in 2004. So in my mind I thought it would all sound alike. But suprisingly enough the Xasthur part was equally unique and still depressing (big suprise). During the song "A curse for the lifeless" I was a bit disapointed not to hear any vocals because I myself am a big fan of his vox. But the instruments themselves did not need any vocals. Its amazing just how much emotion you can put into music..And Xasthur is a really good example of a devoted musician. In a Interview he stated "I feel Depressed, and I try to express the depression threw my music" and this is just another big example of him doing a pretty good damn job of it. Blood From The Roots of the Forest was playing and I only heard one line of vocals being used in the intro of the song, and after that I didnt hear anything. Until I got home and gave the cd another spin I heard the subliminal vocals. The guitars were raw and grotesquely good. The drums were quite simple with the "cymbol cymbol drum hit." thing, but it fit the music....This is must have for any
Depressive Black Metal fan. Its well worth the cost and trouble of getting it.

Welcome to Lifelessness - 91%

Scarred_Soul, March 24th, 2005

Nortt and Xasthur are two bands that play very minimalist black metal that produces very thick atmospheres of sadness. A split featuring both Nortt and Xasthur was a very good decision as they fit well together. Both artists produce emotions of extreme levels of sadness and emptiness and yet they both carry their own unique style.

First up we have Nortt’s contribution. Nortt offers us 4 songs that can all be found on the Gudsforladt album which was released the previous year. Every song here is played extremely slow and droning. A feeling of extreme sadness washes through me right from the very beginning and this lasts throughout the whole release and leaves me craving for more. It feels as if all happiness and hope is being sucked out of me right to the end.

The production is excellent. The mix between the instruments is perfectly balanced. Nothing dominates here. The keyboards and the guitars are about the same level in the mix and can both be heard clearly. The guitars are very distorted to the point where they are just static. The vocals range from being slightly behind the guitars to being slightly on top. The drums tend to be further back in the mix as they are used to back up the rest of the melody.

The guitars are the driving force of the songs and produce a wave of static. They are played by generating notes that start off fairly loud and then gradually deplete into nothing till the next note is played. This is a very interesting ‘doomy’ technique that I don’t recall hearing before and it suits Nortt really nicely. It adds to the effect that your emotions are depleting away from you. The keyboards are used very effectively here and this is where much of the feeling of sadness comes from. They are played very slowly with very mournful riffs. The vocals are distorted and are sung very slow with immense sadness. Church bells are added in Dod Ochte Borte which gives me the feeling that someone very close and important to me has died. The drums play very slow beats and back up the rhythm nicely. They are difficult to hear above the wave of static at times.

Nortt closes his contribution with one of the creepiest songs I have ever heard. It makes Charlie Clouser sound like an Amateur in comparison. Gone is the wave of static that drove the previous songs. In its place is a very dark droning noise played in the background. Keyboards are used as the driving force here and every note is played at just the right moment.


Next up is Xasthur who is known for producing many releases in short periods of time with 2004 being no exception. In this year alone he produced 2 albums and has been featured on 4 splits. This makes one think that the level of quality of the music will be lacking in performance and inspiration but Xasthur has managed to maintain a fairly high level of consistency through his career without altering much. The reason for this is that he has not strayed from his style. This is another release that sounds much like all of his others. The only major noticeable difference with this release is that the production quality has gotten a little fuller. Xasthur’s music has been fairly controversial amongst its listeners. Many people find Xasthur to be very boring and I tended to agree as I used to find his music lacking in fullness and atmosphere but on this release it has improved a great deal from his early work.

The music on here is more typical emotionless black metal that one would expect from Xasthur. When listening to this I get a sick feeling in my stomach. It feels as if everything around me is crumbling and becoming lifeless. This mood exists throughout the material and does not shift. Xasthur plays very slow repetitive beats that draws the listener into his lifeless world. Depressive keyboard sounds are used nicely to help add structure and back up the guitars. The vocals are only used in the second track and are so far back in the mix it is almost impossible to distinguish and sounds almost like a wave of static. The only exception to this is at the very beginning of the second track where the vocals are airy and distorted but this does not last long. The drums are played in the background and can barely be heard at times. Xasthur’s contribution ends with a beautiful piano melody that reminds me of something I would hear on Limbonic Art’s Debut.

To conclude this is an excellent release and is a must for fans of Xasthur or Nortt. If you’re interested in very minimalist black metal that produces heavy atmospheres then I strongly urge you to check this out as it is a great introduction to both artists.