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A Wicked Split - 93%

RondofedoR, May 18th, 2014

Man, if there’s any one thing that sludge-doom desperadoes Sourvein know how to do, it’s gotta be pick the right bands to do splits with.

Damaging eardrums for over 20 years, the dependable Cape Fear quartet have three granite-heavy full-lengths to their name, but they also have eight splits that bear slogging-mates like Grief, Coffins, Bongzilla, Buzzov•en, and Church of Misery (2x), among others. And in keeping with such a fantastic split discography, Sourvein have entrusted the heretical help of blackened sludge soul-mates Graves at Sea to deliver unto the masses an eponymously titled split that harbors practically everything a fan of doom (and its various substrates) could want, including absolutely killer album art.

The split begins with two from Graves at Sea and wraps up with three from Sourvein. Both bands play at a walking sludge tempo, with Graves at Sea sliding black and Sourvein smoking hazy doom, and as psychedelic and as innately cool as the latter’s three tracks are, Portland’s Graves at Sea drive this mother home with what are essentially two perfect examples of blackened sludge.

The first track is “Betting on Black,” the superior of the pair, and what is just a phenomenal blend of in-your-face crocodilian groove and imposing wickedness that is simply far too catchy for its own damn good. As he achieved on the band’s latest EP, This Place Is Poison, vocalist Nathan Misterek is just stepping up his game like crazy, tearing off this imp/orc-like black metal shriek that, aside from sounding a bit like Travis Ryan, is totally distinctive, and when the moment beckons, his gruffer vocals also (thankfully) differ from your standard beard-core roar. The other players are just flat-out on-point from the jump, and they take it to the streets like champs on the next track, “Confession,” as well, with recent additions bassist Jeff McGarrity and drummer Bryan Sours attuned to the faultless guitar-playing of Nick Phit. While each track comfortably surpasses the seven-minute marker, the song-writing of each is excellent; never growing stale, always working to their strengths, adding heavy flavor to a doom subgenre that, more often than not, seems intent on rinsing and repeating.

Over the next three tracks Sourvein add an even slower, grittier element to the playing field. Awash with a foggier and more psychedelic environment, “Drifter” is a militant earth-mover and “Equinox” plays like a hallucinatory doom opus, both of which feature subtle and totally spaced-out solos towards the end of all this ominous drone and din. Vocalist Troy Medlin is devastating from start-to-finish and exudes all manner of agony in his delivery. On “Equinox” T-Roy sounds like a lost soul, while on the closer “Follow the Light,” he conjures up a little Matt Pike, grumbling forth his lyrics from deep in his gut before he disappears at the song’s halfway point, letting the band take over with a slick closing jam that’s worth the price of admission alone.

Whether you came for Graves at Sea, or whether you came for Sourvein, this collaborative work is an ideal introduction to both as their performances exemplify to stirring effect the euphoric lows and the terrible highs of their respective genres. Highly enjoyable.

Written for The Metal Observer