Three for the price of one here with a split album of some of Poland’s brightest (or should that be darkest) hopes for the black metal scene. Of the three bands here, two we have come across before – the remarkable Iugulatus and Deep Desolation, the third (primal) are an unknown quantity, but given the quality of the first two bands it is inconceivable that Primal will be anything other than top notch.
And so it proves. Neatly divided into chapters, Primal go first with four tracks of menacing, organ-drenched filth. Uncompromising to a quite extraordinary degree, Primal open with ‘nadczlowiek’, a ferocious track, gleefully augmented with huge organ flourishes which lend a gothic feel to proceedings, that lasts an epic 9 minutes. Having set a mid-tempo feel and placed the listener into a suitable comfort zone, Primal promptly smash the vibe to pieces with the uncomfortable, jarring ‘matka noc’, a searing, brutal, raging melee of blast beats, crushing guitar and corroded vocals. It is astoundingly good and you can only wonder how the other two bands will fare after such a powerful opening salvo. As the track slows to a sludgy crawl, you realise how much variety is crammed into each song – this is black metal as it’s meant to be, intelligent, passionate and fiercely creative and if Primal can sustain this over a full album they will undoubtedly reach high into black metal’s elite. After such an exhausting track, ‘Poza grob’ scales things back to a quite remarkably creepy opening before blasting your face off with a churning, powerful riff that eloquently recalls Poland’s snowbound landscapes in the depths of winter. Icy, provocative and powerful it even features a solo from Markiz (whom you would imagine has enough to do being the guitarist in both Deep Desolation and Iugulatus) before Primal’s contribution is rounded out with an outro thus ending chapter one. One final word on Primal – given the quality of the other two bands on display I truly wasn’t expecting to be as blown away by Primal as I have been – but the devastating effect that these four astounding tracks had is beyond question. There is an epic darkness, a sense of limitless age and internal conflict that seeps out of every raging, ice-laden riff and if you are a fan of black metal at its most creative, then Primal will devastate you and shake you to your very core.
Chapter two sees Iugulatus return after last year’s excellent ‘call of the horned god’ album, and they don’t disappoint. ‘Will of Satan’ sets things in motion with an almighty groove behind the squealing pinch harmonics and chugging rhythm before the band let all hell loose with a grindingly savage riff and Balrog’s customarily brutal vocals. The production here is brighter than Primal’s more bass-orientated approach, and the guitars have rather more heavy metal hellfire to them than Primal’s whirlwind approach. Nonetheless, while the band’s may differ stylistically, there is a common sense of purpose in both band’s work and Iugulatus’ ability to craft memorable, heavy and exciting songs remains undiminished. ‘Master of illusion’ is another stunningly heavy track with a strong traditional metal undercurrent propelling the band’s blacker-then-obsidian mantra forward. Balrog… well Balrog just sounds amazing – his voice honed to perfection so that each phrase carries the nuance of hidden menace and violence. It was difficult, listening to the band’s ‘call of the horned god’, to imagine Iugulatus improving and yet here, on these three tracks, they’ve effortlessly raised their game in terms of both musicianship and song-writing and the result is a devastating attack that more than matches Primal’s savagely beautiful work. The band’s final addition to the set is the grinding, Celtic Frost-esque brutality of ‘Gates of abyss’. It is a powerful and fitting final track and it once again leaves the listener in no doubt of the stunning ability of Iugulatus and hopefully this release presages the band’s return to the studio for another full-length effort: at the rate the band are developing it’s bound to be a phenomenal effort.
The final chapter sees the return of the mighty Deep Desolation. The band’s ‘subliminal visions’ was a masterpiece – a beautiful, horrifying statement of merciless intent and even with the wonders of Iugulatus and Primal, it’s clear that only one band can adequately close an album of this quality. Once again Deep Desolation are out to push boundaries. Still unquestionably black metal, the psychedelic solo that is unleashed at the outset suggests the band have been absorbing the punishing might of Electric Wizard as much as the blackened horrors of Darkthrone and Celtic Frost. The result is a massive, punishing groove, played funeral slow and with Mariath utilising a vocal style that chills to the bone. It’s all still icy cold, but the addition of psychedelic elements to the band’s already fascinating sound sees Deep Desolation take another leap firmly into the unknown. With one foot firmly in the doom camp, ‘Satanic Orgy’ takes the slowed down, sludge-laden approach even further with a track that owes a massive spiritual debt to Black Sabbath, albeit filtered through the band’s own unique blackened filter. It is a fitting, deathly end to a remarkable split with not a single bad track in evidence.
There are several reasons to recommend this split EP. The first is that, unlike many splits, there is a real cohesive feel to the tracks on offer. There is a genuine and invigorating progression from Primal’s stunningly beautiful, traditional black metal approach, through Iugulatus’ more groove laden material to Deep Desolation’s sonically overwhelming blackened doom that the listener can track with each band proving to be a revelation in spite of the excellent material offered by the others. The second reason is that band’s such as this need, and deserve, your support; this is an excellent opportunity to discover three amazing bands, all of whom turn in sterling performances, and at sixty minutes, there’s a lot of new music for your money. The third reason is simply that with so many established acts out there vying for your attention, it is worth remembering the power of the underground scene to inspire, provoke and create. Each band here takes their influences and puts their own unique spin on them crafting something genuinely different and enthralling in the process. If you like extreme music then you owe it to yourself to track down a copy. Exceptional in every way.