Bent Sea / To Dust Split EP Review

With ten tracks, comprising a mere twenty-six minutes, this split EP is a very special release from two extreme super groups:  Bent Sea, featuring Shane Embry of Napalm Death, Dick Verbeuren of Aborted and Soilwork, and Sven de Caluwe of Aborted; and To Dust, featuring Thomas Haywood of Abigail Williams and Aborted, Joe Reed of Severed Remains and Zach Gibson of Black Dahlia Murder. Clearly no ordinary release, this split 12” from Give Praise Records is a masterclass in grind from some of the genre’s most respected practitioners and is set to leave listeners scraping their shattered craniums from the floor.

To Dust CD Vinyl

Bent Sea Kick things off with ‘Ascend’ and opening track ‘to the extreme’ is every bit the monument to extremity you might have hoped for. In just one minute fifteen seconds the band unleash a gruelling riff, guttural vocals, whirlwind beats and somehow still find the time to drop in an unhinged solo. It’s a blink-and-you-miss –it track, and yet is a comparative epic given that its successor is the twenty-five second ‘caged cruelty’ which rivals anything from Napalm Death’s groundbreaking ‘scum’ release. Before you know it you’re plunged into the harrowing abyss that is ‘Gluttonous death’ which picks its way on scabbed knees through a doom-soaked sewer towards the lengthy horror of the title track. With a lengthier run time, ‘Ascend’ kicks off with a crystalline groove only for Sven’s horrific vocals to send the track spinning into a darkened pit where demons mutter obscenities for all eternity. A multi-layered beast with a strong doom influence, ‘Ascend’ is the EP’s blistering highlight. Bent Sea end their aural assault with ‘Animals’, a visceral blast that sees the band at their most harrowing and extreme. Not for the faint of heart, ‘Animals’ concludes Bent Sea’s contribution to the split release, leaving the listener dazed and somewhat under the impression that they’ve been physically beaten.

Bent Sea Ascend

Not to be outdone, To Dust announce their presence (and the start of the aptly titled ‘descend’ EP) with ‘Amaryllis’, a darker, rawer assault that recalls the icy noise of the various Peel sessions that dominated the late 80s (and which were captured on the exhaustive ‘Grind at the BBC’ box set). Classic grind with scabrous vocals and guitar filtered through an amp on the verge of spontaneous combustion, ‘Amaryllis’ is as brutal as it comes and quite exhilarating. ‘Tumbeiros’ sees Joe Reed’s vocal chords shredded against Thomas Haywood’s battering ram riffs whilst the doom-laden intro of ‘Deception hymn’ disguises a full-blooded assault heralded by Zach Gibson’s ever-impressive rhythmic barrage. EP highlight ‘The perspectivist’ is, arguably, one of the most brutal, relentless pummellings ever recorded, with Zach reducing his drum kit to mere dust and splinters with a performance that sounds like Animal pumped up on steroids before the EP concludes with the lengthy blackened menace of ‘Hegemonic scars’ which pairs discordant guitars with a vocal performance that verges on the inhuman.

Taking different approaches to grind, Bent Sea are the more eclectic of the two bands, exploring a variety of tempos and moods over their five tracks. In contrast, To Dust seem hell-bent on unleashing the most virulent sonic devastation ever heard by mortal man and, in this, they largely succeed. Both performances rely on exemplary musicianship and the production is admirably raw in both cases, capturing every fevered beat and raging riff and unleashing them with a power that threatens to unravel your speaker cones. A relentless masterwork of extremity, this split release is a pinnacle of grind and a must-have for fans of the genre. 9

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