Thaw / Echoes Of Yul – Split

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Label: Instant Classic

One of the most wonderful paradoxes in extreme music is how sounds that are so oppressive and heavy can, when they reach a certain critical mass, become somehow meditative and trance-inducing. Such is my reaction to the excellent split between Polish experimental metal/drone acts Thaw and Echoes Of Yul, released by Instant Classic. Each band contributes a single track, though combined they clock in at an impressive 39 minutes. The long lengths are perfect for such music, giving the tracks plenty of time to sink in to your consciousness, captivating your mind and taking you along for a ride that is impossible to describe as pleasurable, yet comes highly recommended.

Thaw open the split with “Earth Grounded”, greeting the listener with pounding, ritualistic drums that remain largely constant throughout the song’s 14 minutes of existence. A buzzsaw-esque drone and guitar noise are then introduced, providing the song with an ebb and flow, before an incredibly strong bass-line comes in with a tone and weight that Godflesh would have been proud of. The drums and bass form the core structures of the song, and remain in place throughout the vast majority of its duration with only minor variation, and it is proof of their primal power that they do not seem to drag or feel sluggish and tired – trance through repetition is achieved instead, though it is the kind of trance that inspires nightmares and madness. Desperate vocals can be heard at points, buried so deeply in the mix that their words are lost, and they are all the more effective for this. Clean guitar is introduced later on, repeating a haunting pattern as the volume and tension builds, and it is a huge relief when things finally begin to ease once more, though it would be a mistake to think this means the song becomes a relaxing listen. It continues to gnaw away at you, tightening the knot in your stomach even more as the band introduce some moments seemingly inspired by the heaviest, more uneasy kinds of metal, before it all comes to a head in a sea of guitar noise and terror. Needless to say, it is quite a listen, and stays with the listener long after the song has done.

Echoes Of Yul contribute “Asemic”, 25 minutes of drone that is almost soothing in comparison to how Thaw ended their song. This is misleading, however; whilst it may seem spacious and gentle in comparison to the track preceding it, it is still heavy and oppressive. What gives it an extra edge in comparison to many other drone acts is the presence of distinctive, clear riffs and movements. Additionally, a relatively clear production allows the many embellishments – including theremin, small guitar movements, and many sounds that I cannot identify – to shine through, keeping the song interesting and haunting. The part I find most effective, though, is the second half of the song, following on from a sample of a woman asking you to pray for her. The volume is eased off ever-so slightly, and a gently buzzing guitar drone provides the backdrop for ritualistic drums, samples, and other, unidentifiable sounds. It is wonderfully effective, blurring the lines between guitar-based noise and drone, and whilst what came before was oppressive and demoralising, the final ten or so minutes are almost heavenly, offering a chance of salvation and redemption even as the song fades away with half-heard voices in the distance and a final hint of melody. The emotional effect it has is very difficult to put in to words, but needless to say, it achieves something that I wish more artists (of all genres) would attempt, elevating the song beyond simple music in to something more important.

As should be clear, these two tracks are challenging, captivating, and come highly recommended. They end on very different notes, and achieve very different emotional endings, and whilst they may not inherently break new ground, the emotional impact they have is difficult to overstate. Well worth your time.

Split is available for streaming and download via Bandcamp. A CD limited to 200 digipack copies can also be purchased through Bandcamp.

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