Interesting accent these bands have got there. New Jersey? No, New Zealand. And Australia. Well then, let’s throw another shrimp on the barbie! 36 minutes of blackened thunder from down under await those with a taste for the cavernous on Call of the Maelstrom from Vassafor and Temple Nightside. The former have been around since 1994 despite a few years of inactivity. Various demos, EPs, a live album and one widely revered full-length (2012’s Obsidian Codex) finds these Kiwis paired with their Aussie neighbors, Temple Nightside, for a six-song, 36-minute split where these cretins almost out-Incantation the mighty Father Befouled. Temple Nightside formed in 2010 in the land of Crocodile Dundee and one demo, one split, one full-length later somehow released a box set in 2015 (on tape, how kvlt!). Vassafor may be the elder statesmen (a status to which I and Steel Druhm can relate), but both acts hold their own in this diabolical duel from the very depths of demonic damnation.
If you like your metal with clarity and definition, this may not be your cup of arsenic-laced tea. I’ve spun Call of the Maelstrom on high level Bose speakers and in the car, and the one place I was able to really appreciate what is going on is with headphones. This is a drawback only because it limited where I was able to enjoy this to its fullest, but at the same time, the cavernous sound adds to the atmosphere considerably. An oppressive, direful feeling pervades every moment of this release and harkens back to when I was a twelve-year old boy (as opposed to one now trapped in the body of a 40-year old) in my parents’ basement listening to King Diamond‘s Abigail on headphones for the first time. As much as this music is on the other side of the spectrum, it’s rare these days that an album genuinely chills me to the bone.
Vassafor‘s first cut proper, “Phoenix of the Maelstrom,” is a sprawling, nine-minute epic trip through hammer blasting drums, tremolo picking guitars, nauseous melodies, and occasional moments of vile sludge. If I had to choose the song to define the band, this would easily be it. “Crowned in Irradiated Ashes” is a full speed pummeling that, despite the relentless tempo, clings to the creepiness that is an earmark of this entire proceeding. Vocally, Vassafor‘s VK has one of the most interesting deliveries I’ve heard since Toxodeth‘s unfathomable Mysteries About Life and Death. Somewhere between a whisper, a guttural roar, and Sauron from the Lord of the Rings movies, it’s a mindfuck to listen to and sits on an even keel with the other instruments as opposed to screaming over the top. The result? A distortion-drenched, reverb-soaked demonic wall of sound that leaves the listener feeling like they fell in a pit of the foulest muck imaginable. “Tormentum Aeternum” closes out Vassafor‘s contribution on a very strong note, with all of the styles already employed, peppered with occasionally thrashy moments. Two vile guitar solos are split by a ritualistic spoken word passage that makes me wonder if they do, indeed, speak another language besides English in New Zealand because I can’t understand a word of it.
Temple Nightside take the reins and slow this apocalyptic steed to a crawl, dragging the listener through two sepulchral tracks clocking in at a total of almost 17 minutes. Think of Vassafor as more of a crazed maniac, bludgeoning the listener to death while Temple Nightside take their time, bloodletting and torturing physically and psychologically. “Knell” takes time to build, going almost two minutes before some structure is introduced, but when it finally is, oh how that caustic riff makes the hairs on the back of the neck stand on end. The lumbering, pained pace makes the blasting, frenzied section that ensues all the more pugilistic. The vocals go from a Rahmer/Pillard roar to a cleaner, sickly crooning reminiscent at times of those on Hades‘s (Nor) Again Shall Be. “The Howling Void, As Wolves…” brings Call of the Maelstrom to an end with a title fitting the entire release. Haunting and menacing at the same time. In just two long songs, Temple Nightside left such an impression on me that at the closing of this review, I’m finding their full length, Condemnation, to continue the torture.
Though they clearly distinguish themselves from one another, the transition from Vassafor‘s portion of the split to Temple Nightside‘s isn’t jarring. They are well-matched. This is the kind of stuff that makes the uninitiated wonder how we can even call this music. Got neighbors you want out of the building? Put Call of the Maelstrom on and turn it up to 11.
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Websites: VassaforOfficial | Facebook.com/Vassafor | TempleNightsideOfficial
Release Dates: Out Worldwide: 02.23.2015