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both of these bands are annoying to google - 80%

RapeTheDead, July 15th, 2017

Iron Bonehead’s always a great resource for filthy, up-and-coming metal. While they do put out a boatload of stuff, there’s a few gems lurking in the mix such as Bolzer, Possession and Jordablod, so when they drop something new you better fucking listen. This recent split between Sunspell and Saudade is perhaps a tad more melodic than many things you’d find on IB’s roster, but it nonetheless fits in with the label’s aesthetic. Reviewing splits is fun on my end, cause I basically get to do two reviews in one. Let’s give er a go!

SunSpell

Sunspell’s side is probably better consumed as a single piece. There are technically two tracks, but the first one seems to serve primarily as an introduction to the second one. “Consumed by Emptiness” doesn’t really work as well as a standalone listen, as the track is very minimal and slowly builds on the theme, but never actually lets go of any of the tension it builds. That being said, once “Dreams of an Eidolon Moon” gets going, this is pretty damn great, as the melody just swells like a balloon and distant shrieks give it an air of intensity. The vocals are very, very sparse; I’m fairly certain there are no actual lyrics for “Dreams” in particular. It’s no matter, because after about three minutes more of introduction the blasting kicks in and the fun really starts. SunSpell has a sense of melody that shows hints of influence from the more melodic side of American black metal, but stays firmly grounded in its more traditional DSBM roots.

While there are some fantastic ideas present, by the end SunSpell’s side I’ve felt like much more could have been done with the songs. For all the time they spend dwelling on certain tremolo riffs, you’d think the transitions would be much more fluid than they are. There’s a handful of times where some really good riffs are strung together, but there’s other times (like when the keyboard part fades out in the first track) where the shift between melodies seems a tad too abrupt. As someone who appreciates a nice healthy shriek, I find the vocals are a bit too faded in the mix as well, which is a shame, because what you can hear of them sounds fairly interesting. Sometimes I feel like the distance of the vocals helps contribute to the atmosphere, but other times I feel a bit cheated because the rest of the music is giving me very little to latch on to. As great as SunSpell is at crafting riffs, the band occasionally lacks the ability to build atmosphere through songwriting alone.

This is a bit of a head-scratcher for be, because there’s a lot about this I really like. The drum production sounds really nice - fairly sure the drums are programmed, but they sound balanced enough that it doesn’t really distract you from the greater presentation. Half of the time, this has moments of lush tremolo that wash all over you, but the other half is spent wandering off to nowhere. I enjoy SunSpell’s half of the split more than I dislike it at the end of the day, but as it fades out with some ominous, synthy sounds, I’m not really sure if I could recommend it.

70%

Saudade

Saudade’s half of the split is a complete 180 from the sound SunSpell was going for, which is interesting. A lot of the black metal splits I’ve heard seem to have both bands opting for similar approaches to a sound, but where SunSpell’s half is misty, tremolo-based haze, Saudade’s side shows the more gritty and aggressive side of black metal. I was already familiar with Saudade through their debut album, which was a solid slab of filth in its own right, but it contained both short and to-the-point songs as well as more drawn-out numbers. Interestingly enough, they decided to focus more on straightforward rippers on a split with a band that is anything but concise, but man am I ever glad they did. “Black Death” is hands-down my favorite song this band has ever written. It bursts out with a black metal riff that sounds like it was ripped straight out the 90’s. Paired with Preston L.’s lethal, punk-tinged vocal delivery, it’s easily the most intense moment on the split. Not ones to just bang out a riff and call it a day, they follow it up with a small pause and a transition into a fucking beast of a riff that sounds like Bolzer’s sense of melody and warmth mixed with Carpathian Forest’s simplicity. Seriously, if there’s one track you check out on this album, make it that one.

The rest of Saudade’s material here is no slouch either. “Chapel of Judgement” showcases the versatility of Brandon Gruber’s vocals (I really like how both vocalists on this album each have their own recognizable styles), and “Halted:Erased” is a bit more gentle and deliberate than the fury of “Black Death”, showing hints of the more despondent side of the band’s sound. At only 16 minutes and with a couple of interludes, though, Saudade’s mission on this split is simple: show up, destroy, leave. While I find myself longing for a more expansive and realized version of this sound, the purpose of this split is to give me a quick bite that leaves me wanting more, which is exactly what Saudade does.

85%

Not only does the more straightforward approach taken balance out SunSpell long, drawn out side, but it also works pretty well as a functional EP in its own right. At any rate, this is something you’re gonna want to get your hands on soon: SunSpell has a lot of potential lurking in the midst, and Saudade is just beginning to realize theirs. It’s only a matter of time before one of them blows up. Either buy the vinyl now while you still can or pay out the ass on Discogs ten years from now…it’s up to you.