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Far-out BM / deep space / psychedelia here ... - 85%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, March 14th, 2016

You can always trust Rhinocervs to release the most brain-destroying, mind-melting recordings and this split featuring Tukaaria and Odz Manouk, both part of the Black Twilight Circle network of bands blending intense black metal, deep space ambience and psychedelia, upholds that trust. This split is not very long but what it lacks in length it makes up for in sheer sonic intensity, complex musical structures and an overall impression of deeply rooted and unfathomable black evil. In Odz Manouk's case, that evil is cold and calculating, and is definitely not something to be trifled with.

Tukaaria leads off with three songs of raw and deranged primitive black metal: all tracks feature dense echoing layers of rapid-fire multiple tremolo guitars, racing bass and machine-gun blast-beat drumming. For all their fury though, the songs are tight and very structured through several series of repeating riffs and rhythms. The bass tends to carry the melody while the guitars rage around it and the drums bang away relentlessly. The music's energy level is high and focused and carries right through Tukaaria's side. Sometimes there are catchy hooks and thumping beats but they never last very long as they are tossed aside by yet more dizzying and entrancing repeating riffs and driving percussion. The singing seems less anguished than on "Raw to the Rapine" and features a mix of blackened death metal growling and shrieking, and clean-toned chanting in the background that seems to float serenely above the dense entangled sonic blackness. The atmosphere can be hazy and bleached; on the third track "Memory of an Extinct Race" the band almost takes a breather in the middle with slower-paced tremolo guitar warble, and for a moment we feel the hot sultry ambience under a blazing acid sky. In spite of all the activity, the music can actually be quite blissful and trance-like.

When you think Tukaaria is as far-out extreme as black metal psychedelia can be, Odz Manouk comes roaring in with an absolutely massive and dense sound, super-deep, like a giant underground worm machine scrabbling furiously through tunnels. Beneath the grinding bass and pounding machine percussion, a corrosive vocal spits out acid poison and high-pitched lead guitar occasionally squeals in horror. Amazingly the band demonstrates a range of ambience in first track "The Scavenger", seguing smoothly from venomous aggression to evil majesty. Second track "The Sloth" opens as a slower, doomier piece with a spacious feel and for the most part cruises along with heavy country doom rhythms - but it has its moments of sudden spitfire spitefulness, in case listeners get too complacent. The track ends unexpectedly with an all-ambient deep space soundscape in which the full immensity of an uncaring universe bears down on you.

This split will leave you hanging out lost in deep black space with absolutely no hope of rescue or relief from the pain and anguish of isolation. After what you had to go through to be there, you may well think the risk was worth taking. Completely mind-expanding and soul-destroying stuff - oh let's have more, Rhinocervs, we're suckers for punishment ...

The perfect split release - 100%

MutantClannfear, December 11th, 2013

By a show of hands: out of those reading this, who thinks a split release is a good indicator of quality in metal? They've certainly become ingrained in the culture of parts of the metal underground, particularly in terms of scenes that cling more fervently to analog formats like raw black metal and the more atmospheric breeds of death metal, but I think most people would agree that the split is a better idea in concept than in execution. At best, from a listener's perspective, most of them are a decent way to dip one's toes into a band with a huge discography, or to bridge the gap between multiple bands' fans. But as anybody who's actually listened to a split knows, the inevitable problem arises in that there's usually a side to the album which is obviously stronger - to an even greater extent than one band's standalone album - and the mismatching can feel awkward and unpleasant. Let's face it: barring bands tapping into your personal erogenous zones, it is fucking hard to compose music that is good or noteworthy; for a split release to work, essentially double the talent is required. They're a release format I'm drawn towards more out of idealism than realistic payout, but my overarching point is that this is it. This is the split that I, and anybody else who's had this attitude towards split releases, has been waiting for: a perfectly balanced performance by two bands who have hit their prime, and have hit it so hard that it raises the expectations of everything surrounding it as a whole.

Despite the obvious affiliations, I'd rather not turn this review into a general commentary on Crep├║sculo Negro, Rhinocervs, or any other entities associated with the Black Twilight Circle. Both labels have fostered respectable scenes with an intriguing aesthetic, and the captivation that they have inspired is one of the strongest indicators, at least to me, that the USBM scene is a formidable force of its own regardless of the endless praise for countries such as Norway, Finland and France. That having been said - this split release between Tukaaria and Odz Manouk is so potently astounding, so ahead of the pack, that there isn't really any use in comparing it to any of the bands' contemporaries. Any comparisons based on something as extramusical as the bands' labelmates and associated projects would only serve to diminish the quality of the music on its own terms.

Pretentious praise-lavishing aside, Tukaaria start off the A-side of the split, and are probably the more energetic of the two bands featured. When I say energetic, I mean exactly that - lively, full of an energy and vigor that's seldom captured in music, let alone black metal. While not exceptionally fast by BM standards, throughout its entire length Tukaaria's side of the split maintains a fluid, consistent sense of momentum that never seems to relent. The band are exceptionally good at keeping you on your toes throughout songs with maybe only a handful of tempo changes apiece; except Tukaaria don't just work around it like an obstacle, they flourish in this sort of environment. Tukaaria's songs here are like a blank canvas that the band proceed to fill with vibrant flicks of their paintbrush - the riffs swirl and mesh through the soundscape like cream in a coffee mug, rhythmically fluid and natural but simultaneously extremely forceful. When the band do change tempos, though, it is immense: "Suspensions" drops into a downtempo dirge a minute or so in and returns to its main riff with explosive force, rocketing back into the fray with twice the power as it possessed before.

I will wholly admit that part of Tukaaria's appeal to me is their sense of riffcraft, which is so fine-tuned to my own tastes that it may as well have been constructed entirely under my own supervision. The riffs on their side of the split are absolutely beautiful, in a way that very little (if any) black metal I've heard has tried to touch upon before. It's extremely melodic, not in the form of melancholy or spirituality or any other "vibe" that BM touches on: it's just pretty. For the most part, the band use these dainty, fuzzy, soft little chains of spiraling tremolo-picked notes that combine to form absolutely dazzling leaps in intervals, cascading in the higher regions of the music and proceeding to rain down onto the listener. Tukaaria also have an unusually pronounced, ambitious bass performance, which is always high in the mix and usually holds the key melody in place while the guitars build waves of separate chords around it. You know how, in most metal bands, you can usually tell when the bass was composed directly after the guitars were, the way it's just stacked underneath them? Tukaaria raise some serious questions there - the interplay between their bass and their guitars is so brilliant that at times it's wholly ambiguous as to which was laid down first.

The end result? A fantastic approach to riffing that hits the bulls-eye every single time it's used, and personally rubs me in all the right ways. "Mythology", in particular, might be one of my favorite songs of all time for this reason; it's composed almost exclusively of these extremely light-hearted riffs and chords, and it uses them to slowly but surely build towards an immensely satisfying, intensely atmospheric burst in the final seconds of its running time. The other songs aren't quite as "bright" and "happy" but use the same style of riffing to great effect. "Suspensions" seems to prove Tukaaria can just as easily apply the same riffing to a much more traditionally "evil"-sounding track by adding a bit of sadistic edge to the same swirling melodies, making them sound just as natural and cascading but with a distinctly frantic and panicking tinge. The final track on their side, "Memory of an Extinct Race", is a more earthy song with much less emphasis placed on its speed and a lot more on its chunky tupa-beats and riffs which seem to come in forceful pulses rather than fluid lines. In short, Tukaaria strike gold with every single bit of music here - not a single stream of melody to be found out of place.

The riffing is obviously the most distinctive thing about the band, but it wouldn't be fair to discount the rest of the features to their music. The composition is extremely satisfying, for one: riffs are reused after the song has ventured somewhere else, at which point they tend to take on an entirely different feeling, and the conclusion to all the songs feels like a legitimate culmination of every bit of atmosphere each song has used thus far. The drum performance is lovely: while it's buried under a bit too much fuzz to determine if a machine was used or not, the extremely bass-heavy, treble-lacking mix to the percussion adds an organic, almost tribal feeling to Tukaaria's music. Drum fills are only used occasionally, and with minimal flair at that, but in a way I prefer the droning, hypnotic effect this gives the music. The vocals are astounding as well: they're primarily powerful, reverb-drenched, ancient-sounding howls with very little melody involved and the timbre of a man gargling gravel. But there's even more than that, when you take into account the hauntingly ritualistic chants and coos that add extra layers of melody in the bridges, like dead souls crooning from distant valleys into the soundscape. There's just so much thought placed into everything here - the interplay between each of the musical elements is profound, the payoffs are constant and huge, and overall there is absolutely nothing I would change about this.

...and then side B starts, and you realize the split album harbors a second band to which the exact same statement applies. Odz Manouk only contribute two songs to their side of the split, but in all realism they really only need two; each one is absurdly massive and carries the weight and momentum of an entire solar system around with it. The first thing you'll notice about the songs here, with the explosive entrance of "The Scavenger", is that Odz Manouk are an extremely vast band. The guitars are panned across what feels like an entire city block and doused in reverb; the throaty, venomously rasping vocal performance hovers over the instruments and bellows down upon them; even the band's drum machine is tastefully reverb-laden and integrated into the performance. Tukaaria are a relatively vast-sounding band, for sure, but this side of the split is nevertheless about seventy times bigger by comparison.

Odz Manouk's compositions bear a slight resemblance to Tukaaria's, but for the most part they are an entirely different beast. While their sound is admittedly a little less eccentric, they make up for it by tweaking the atmosphere they capture to make it as astounding as possible. The first big compositional difference one notices is that Odz Manouk are a much doomier band in general - Tukaaria revel in speed, while Odz Manouk master both speed and a lack thereof but tend to cling to the two more-or-less equally. After an intense four-minute session of fast and vicious black metal, "The Scavenger" draws to a close with this slow, explosively heavy riffing session accented with military-like crash hits; meanwhile, "The Sloth" is composed almost entirely out of this drudging, morose riff that slowly struts forward with the weight of a giant. Most of them are topped off with these dreary, mid-pitched leads and licks that possess an almost funeral doom-like sense of melody, which makes the music incredibly moody but not necessarily "sad" - just emotionally moving.

This shouldn't serve to downplay the band's faster sections, though - while the band's earth-shattering trudges and stomps are brilliant, their upbeat riffs represent more of a "peak" in the songs. And not by mere virtue of speed, either - the band's riffing is nothing short of blistering. The downtuning needed to perform the doomy sections lets the band produce some unusually low, startlingly heavy streams of tremolo that almost sound a little death metal-influenced by proxy. The riff in "The Sloth" that kicks off the first change in pace is a perfect example of how well the band make these types of riffs work, by tossing little dissonant twangs of notes into the fray amidst a churning, pummeling pile of straightforward bulldozing melodies. Aside from that, the riffing has its higher end at times: there are a couple riffs on both songs that sort of "cascade" (though with more malevolence than Tukaaria apply) in a precise rise and fall through scales. "The Scavenger", in particular, boasts an astonishing dread-inspiring riff as its introductory passage, that ends up sounding something like nails on a chalkboard but infinitely more pleasant. Suffice to say, the band's sense of riffcraft is blissful.

Similar to Tukaaria, Odz Manouk have a formula that works but they add flair onto it until it goes above and beyond expectations. Glossolalic chants are also used in this band, although they're a bit more actively involved at times than Tukaaria's. The production is extremely nice as well - the guitars are thin and sharp but have enough tone for the more downtuned riffs to carry a potent amount of weight, and any bass that's needed (for doomy sections and such) is added through these thick heavy layers of just... bass frequencies, that wash over the music like a cleansing rain. The composition is brilliant, and while there are no lyrics published, one certainly gets the feeling that both songs here tell stories of immense depth and gravity. That one can imagine what those stories could be without the aid of words should speak volumes about the success of Odz Manouk's music on every functional level.

In short: wow. I've seen nothing but praise for this release throughout the underground, and obviously with good reason - Tukaaria and Odz Manouk have essentially created with this release The Split to End All Splits, in that through the perfect execution of all musical elements involved, all the textbook problems with splits (mismatched bands, one side being weaker than the other, one project contributing with a disproportionately large amount of material) have been eliminated. All that remains is a tribute to two astonishing bands, performing at qualitative peaks that are continuing to dazzle me even months later after I've memorized every song, started instinctively humming every riff throughout my daily affairs, and taken time out of my own life to learn more about the lives of those who created it. Make no mistake: to some extent, both bands' contributions here are outliers in their overall discography (more in Tukaaria's case than Odz Manouk's, though; neither Tukaaria's full-length nor their latest track on the Tliltic Tlapoyauak compilation can hold a candle to this), but for this particular release, everything comes together perfectly. If the last 2,200 words weren't enough for you to get the message: this is absolutely essential listening.