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US black metal mastery. - 90%

Thatshowkidsdie, January 30th, 2013

Flenser Records continues to be a haven for the latest and greatest in Bay Area black metal with this rad split cassette between Palace of Worms and Mastery, also available for free download from the label’s Bandcamp page. Both bands are one man affairs; California seems to be quite the fertile breeding ground for solitary black metal entities (see also: Xasthur, Leviathan, Crebain, Draugar, et al.) and Palace of Worms and Mastery uphold the level excellence that’s come to be expected from the Golden State’s corpse painted isolationist contingent.

Palace of Worms should be familiar to anyone closely following USBM, as the project already has two full length albums (also available via Flenser) and a demo to its name. Main man Balan’s take on black metal adheres largely to orthodoxy, though there are some thrashier moments present throughout the four tracks on offer here. Although Palace of Worms is a one man band, the music does not follow the almost uniformly slow-paced depressive path so typical of isolationist black metal. This sounds more like the work of a full band using decent equipment, rather than some hermit recording on a boombox in his basement. It’s heavy, scathing and thick with atmosphere, a near perfect depiction of blackened traditionalism that owes much to Norway’s second wave, but at the same time possesses a sense of dynamics far removed from early Scandinavian BM’s reliance on repetition. It isn’t style that separates Palace of Worms from the pack, it’s quality songwriting; something painfully rare for modern metal in general, let alone black metal.

“Egregorian Synapse,” the lone track from Mastery, is something of a revelation. It’s an eight-minute-and-thirty-one-second assault to the senses; a barely-controlled blast of very real sounding mental anguish that somehow manages to keep itself coherent in spite of the all-over-the-place nature of the composition. One can only assume that Mastery mastermind Ephemeral Domignostika is an extremely dangerous career sociopath after being subjected to this spastic sonic evisceration, either that or a deeply disturbed black metal savant. While the four tracks from Palace of Worms leave me feeling sated, the single mysterious song from Mastery leaves me utterly baffled but craving more. Who the fuck is this guy?! Turns out the always excellent tUMULt has released a compilation of Mastery demos that I must remember to get my hot little hands on at once, but in the meantime I’ll be listening to “Egregorian Synapse” over and over and over…

Splits are a great way for up-and-coming bands to get their name out there, but they also serve to showcase the diversity of whatever scene they’re coming out of by placing two bands from the same genre side-by-side. Much like the False/Barghest split earlier this year, Palace of Worms and Mastery present us with two very different facets of US black metal, leaving us battered, bloody and ultimately satisfied.

Originally written for That's How Kids