Nortt / Xasthur - Split Album - Southern Lord Records 2005
Running Time: 37:04
Southern Lord dives headlong once again into the realm of cult metal releases with this disc, and in doing so, ensures that one of the best split albums I've ever come across will not fade into obscurity. Originally unleashed by Swedish black metal minions, Total Holocaust, and out of print within a month (only 1,000 pressed), this album's pairing of frigid black metal and razor-kissing doom was surely headed for eBay, whereupon it would be sold for a truly unholy price. In stepped Southern Lord, and now we have...
The punishing doom bled out by Denmark's Nortt can best be described with one word. Alone. Not since Scepticism's now-classic Farmakon has a band plumbed the depths of funeral tones with such sheer disregard for anything approaching happiness. Even the intro track, 'Hedengangen', waves of razor-sharp guitars wash over a rolling piano chording, invoking a descent into the forsaken realm of 'Olemt'. In 'Olemt', harried vocals and disjointed progressions join catatonic drums to set the mood for the isolationist theme of the entire album. Whereas most funeral doom focuses on more melodic guitars, the string section of Nortt seem - in 'Dod Og Borte' - more primed for black metal assault than forlon misanthropy. It gives the songs character, though, and gives Nortt a place with Unearthly Trance and Thergothon as a band not afraid to stray from the norm. The solo keyboard outro of 'Dystert Sind' is an exercise in desolation, and leads us into the world of one of the United States' premier black metal outfits, Xasthur. The instrumental 'A Curse For The Lifeless' takes us by the left hand, and walks us into the grim, solitary world of Xasthur. The uninformed may attempt to write this project off by accusing Xasthur of being too "melodic", or too "upbeat" for black metal based on the instrumental, but once the scathing riffs and hollow vocals of 'Blood From The Roots Of The Forest' begin, it becomes apparent just what Xasthur has - a sense of dynamics. Even within the framework of 'Blood From The Roots...', there lies a melodic strand entwined with some of the most acerbic BM to ever erupt from US shores. It's this dichotomy that makes Xasthur still interesting, even after over a dozen albums in the past five years, and makes the ten-plus minute song not fall on its face. Like Nortt, Xasthur ends his contribution (and the album) with the keyboard-dominated 'Lurking In Silence', courtesy of Scrying Pattern.
If you're unfamiliar with either artist, this album is the perfect primer. If you're already one of the unchosen few, you'll send thanks to Southern Lord for making sure this one didn't slip through the canyon-sized cracks in the strata of the underground.