Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Satanic Warmaster / Clandestine Blaze split (2004)

In late 2003, Werwolf of Satanic Warmaster and Mikko Aspa of Clandestine Blaze came up with the idea to do a split that featured both bands. However, their approach to this was a little unconventional. With both of them being the sole member of their respective bands, they decided to include a few collaborative tracks. So, to go along with the one song, a piece, that each band contributed, they also recorded four as a two-piece. Werwolf handled the guitars and bass, while Mikko takes care of the drumming. They trade off on the vocals, each writing their own lyrics. The results were released through Northern Heritage, in February 2004.

The split begins with "Intro/My Torments", the intro being adequate enough, almost reminiscent of something from the Hellraiser series. After a couple minutes, it fades as Werwolf begins to scream and the guitars follow. He handles the vocals, on this song, though one might guess that Mikko had some input regarding the opening riff. About four minutes in, the song finally starts. The vocals are weak and the drums are mixed too high. It's very fast-paced, in the vein of Transilvanian Hunger. To be honest, though both bands have long used the aforementioned album as a template for their own works, they usually added a bit of their own feeling to the songs. Here, it seems more generic than usual. The production quality is similar to a garage rehearsal, though this isn't always a bad thing. In this case, it drags the music down, a slight bit. All in all, a below average start for the split.

"Sacrificial Fires" starts with some feedback, before going into a slow Celtic Frost-inspired riff. This song was, obviously, written by Mikko as he has a tendency to include similar songs on every single release in Clandestine Blaze's discography. It's not terribly bad, but it's grown a little boring by this point. Some riffs are taken directly from Morbid Tales, only slowed down a bit. I guess this is fitting, since Gabriel had previously stolen the riff from Venom. So far, this split is hardly worth the effort of taking the CD out of its case.

The next song, "Conspiring Winds of the Abyss", starts out with more feedback. This is already annoying. Thankfully, it's one of the better songs on here. Werwolf is back on vocals, as the song is yet another tribute to Transilvanian Hunger. It consists of cold tremolo riffs and fast drumming. The vocals are a far cry from the masterful work of Nocturno Culto, but that's no surprise. The main riff is one of the best on the split. It's completely derivative of Darkthrone, but at least it's done competently enough. The pace slows down, near the middle, giving a nice eerie feeling. This doesn't last too long, though it produces a nice trance-like riff that is reminiscent of early Mütiilation.

"Disease" is another song with Mikko on vocals, beginning with even more feedback. He really lets loose on this song, with some shrieking mixing in with his usual vocals. Musically, it's another fast-pace, tremolo-driven song in the early Norwegian mould. There's a little variation in the drumming, but this is overshadowed by the fact that Mikko seems to really be struggling to keep up on this track. There is a cool lead solo, late in the song, that kind of salvages things from being excessively boring. It's not too bad, but I expected a little more from both of these guys.

This is followed by a Clandestine Blaze song, "Guided By the Black Light". Here, Mikko returns to the deeper style of vocals that he is known for, while the guitar playing is a little heavier. The slow parts of the song possess an eerie feeling, yielding some haunting melodies. The faster parts are quite awful, really, being poorly executed. It's sad, but I've rehearsed with worthless garage bands that played tighter than this. The worst part is that it's a result of pure laziness, as anyone familiar with Clandestine Blaze knows that Mikko is capable of much better. It is clear that hardly any effort was put into this.

"To the Legions" is a Satanic Warmaster song. The opening is not very good, as the attempt to match the tortured screams of Count Grishnackh come off as laughable. Once beyond this, the rest of the song is actually fairly decent. It features a rather catchy take on the typical Celtic Frost-type rif. The vocals are a bit strained, but far better than the weak screams that opened the track. A few minutes in, the song picks up speed and returns to the Darkthrone worship that preceded this. Despite this, there are also more riffs in the Finnish style that one would expect from the same guy that recorded Opferblut. A lead melody flows through, temporarily, to add some epic sense to the proceedings. Mikko should have played drums on this one as well, since the timing is off at one point. Outside of the first minute, this is probably the most enjoyable song on the album, after "Conspiring Winds of the Abyss". The outro is completely necessary, but it's pleasant enough. It has kind of a somber feeling, which goes nicely with the disappointment that the listeners are surely experiencing.

This split is little more than a Finnish Black Metal tribute to Darkthrone. There are a couple decent songs and a few nice riffs to be found, but it's hardly something that is worth any great amount of effort to track down. I have to say that both of these guys are capable of better, though I get the impression that this release was meant to have that rehearsal/jam feeling. If that is true, they certainly achieved this. The raw production is is fine, but the sloppy playing is unacceptable. Though both bands rely heavily on their influences, they've also managed to incorporate their own style into the mix, moreso in the case of Clandestine Blaze than with Satanic Warmaster. Either way, here, this element seems to be lacking for the most part.