Hands of Orlac / The Wandering Midget Split Review

Splits are great ways to expand your musical repertoire when familiar with one of the bands collaborating. A level of mutual respect is presumed between the two: surely a favored artist will have good tastes themselves? And surely the twinned groups will offer something similar but sufficiently distanced for a neatly conjoined listening experience? Such conclusions seem logical. I wish I could claim previous enjoyment of either Sweden’s Hands of Orlac or Finland’s The Wandering Midget. Alas, I partook in that ancient AMG tradition of selecting promo purely based on names. The Wandering Midget you say? Hands of Orlac like that old silent horror film? Fuck yeah! My obligatory research yielded that both have 2 full-lengths under their belts so now is a good time for the inter-mingling of their sounds.

Orlac is the slower, weirder, more psychedelic slice of doom on offer. The band is enigmatically fronted by ‘The Sorceress,’ who recalls to me the sultry, earthen tones of Sophie Day (Alunah). Her flute adorns selected passages while the tripped-out vibe sought is evident in such moments as the mid-song solo on “From Below the Stars.” A decidedly 60s and 70s feel drapes over the riffs which is certainly tone-appropriate. By contrast, Midget draws more influence from classic metal from the 80s and the epic flavors favored by the likes of Atlantean Kodex. The lengthy grandiosity of “Where We March the Vultures Follow” is the split’s best track as it boasts a few soaring harmonies and groovy riffs, best demonstrating this sound.

The structure of the release largely focuses on the mammoth bookending tracks, spanning over 13 and 18 minutes respectively, with the opener (“Curse of the Human Skull”) undertaken by Orlac and the closer (“Where We March the Vultures Follow”) by Midget. Dividing these are 2 interludes and a shorter middle track, all courtesy of Orlac. Perhaps it’s my constrictive tidiness but I appreciate this near-perfect symmetry on a split release. It’s also apparent why such a pairing was initiated as despite their differences, both bands most heavily feature mid-paced doom.

The principle issue arises from the prevalence of Orlac’s material. “Curse of the Human Skull” is the quintessential case study as to why songs exceeding 8 minutes are mostly terrible. The problems of a dull, short track are exacerbated by sheer duration and repetition, ensuring you’re disengaged by the third minute, pointedly bored by the eighth and actively annoyed by the thirteenth. The interludes, “Per Aspera” and “Ad Astra,” further waste more minutes as they pointlessly and dejectedly meander their way through organ and synth melodies. They scarcely do enough to even notify that the surrounding stoner doom had paused which entirely defeats the purpose of such interludes. I should add that “From Below the Stars” at the split’s mid-point is stronger, with a jaunty leading riff and an excellent psychedelic solo. But these are, at best, isolated moments in a sea of mediocrity; at worst, utterly ineffectual against the tide of boredom and frustration.

There’s certainly better things to be said about Midget’s 18 minutes but taken as a whole, this split features a lot more bad than good. I’m not incentivized to further investigate either band, even with their excellent names, and I thoroughly recommend that you do not do so either. Yawn.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 11 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps MP3
Label: Cruz del Sur Music
Websites: thewanderingmidget.bandcamp.com | www.facebook.com/thewanderingmidget | handsoforlac.bandcamp.com
Releases worldwide: September 8th, 2017

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