Spring is in the air, motherfuckers! Well at least on my side of the globe it is, bringing an abundance of chirping birds, incessantly vocal insects, blossoming flowers and some sweet spring warmth before the excessive Australian summer heat and humidity kicks in. So while many of my fellow AMG writers residing in the Northern Hemisphere are storing fatty deposits and gathering supplies for the chilly winter ahead, I’m embracing this beautiful time of year. Despite coinciding with the post-winter lull and general busyness and stress of everyday life. Why am I ranting about the weather in a metal review you ask? Well, it got me thinking about intense seasonal attachments to particular types of music, metal in particular, and how weather patterns are often intrinsically linked with listening moods. Of course, good music is good music regardless of the time or place, but certain music stirs the feelings and emotions up in interesting ways when connected with the vibe dictated by Mother Nature. The stark contrast can be just as effective, as I was recently reminded when busting into this latest review assignment.
On a Saturday morning I was lazily kicking back in bed, gazing through the shades at the vibrant colors of the gorgeous day ahead, feeling the mild spring breeze float through the window when I decided it was time to delve into Swallow Matewan, a split release between West Virginia’s Torrid Husk and Greece’s End. Some 40-odd minutes later of listening to the despairing double dose of violent, rainbow killing, unicorn enslaving atmospheric black metal and I was left emotionally damaged and wallowing in self-pity. Yes, folks, this is ugly stuff presented by two previously unfamiliar bands with a strong vision on how to deliver the goods in the split release format. The full-length worthy duration of the split gives a strong taste of each band, containing enough stylistic and grim similarities to tread a sweet middle ground between contrast and cohesion.
Torrid Husk brings forth a terrifyingly intense three-song blitzkrieg of cold-blooded blackened fury, built upon a foundation of relentlessly aggressive drum battery and blanketed with chilly tremolo winds, second-wave frost and a thick fog of unsettling atmosphere. It’s gnarly, vicious stuff that retains an aggressive, dynamic edge amidst the depressing atmosphere. The enticing bass-lines and more idiosyncratic guitar parts lend the songs the character and depth to stand apart from other American black metal acts, particularly on standout cut “Carminite.” And I’m pleasantly reminded of a more frantic and not quite as catchy Mgla in its grim, soul-sucking tone and highly creative drumming. What this trio of songs lack in instant memorability they compensate for with committed, energetic performances, interesting arrangements, and a brutally enveloping atmosphere. Part I is off to a good start.
Greek veterans End take the baton next and maintain the bleak atmospherics and nerve slashing melodic counterpoint established by Torrid Husk. Although Torrid Husk produces the more consistent side of the split, the exceptional “Virga” is Swallow Matewan’s high-point. Beginning with a doomy and depressing opening section, the 11-minute “Virga” grips immediately with hopeless yet chillingly beautiful melodies before segueing into a seething mid-section and winding down with a mix of ambient textures and grimly triumphant riffs. The harsh vocals from the recently recruited Aaron Carey (Nechochwen) cut especially deep, his tortured howls of despondency and anguish soul-crushing in their intensity. Momentum stutters with the discordant oddities of brief instrumental “Existential Litany,” before End unleash a deranged cover of the already deranged Amebix song “Winter.” On the production front, the sound is suitably earthy and organic, unvarnished but certainly not lo-fi. Although the excellent drum performance on the Torrid Husk side proves slightly overbearing in the mix, overall there are decent dynamics and the gritty, authentic tones suits the material of both bands well.
Split releases are often a mixed bag in both quality and quantity. However, I’m happy to report Swallow Matewan delivers the goods rather well. Both bands craft quality material, with Torrid Husk sounding very much like a hungry and talented band on the rise, while I was pleasantly blindsided by the quality output from End, with “Virga” taking the cake for best song honors. Listeners with a penchant for cripplingly bleak atmospheric black metal minus the shoegazing bullshit and oozing toxic melodies, raw emotion, and heart-wrenching despair are advised to check this out.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps MP3
Label: Grimoire Records
Websites: torridhusk.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/torridhusk
endaequitas.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/end
Release Worldwide: September 23rd, 2016