Elegiac / Helvete – Split

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Label: Sacrificial Sounds

In some aspects, this split could hardly be more trve if it tried. The band names and logos; the song titles; all that’s missing is cover art of a shirtless guy in corpsepaint in a forest. But musically, both Elegiac and Helvete offer something far more interesting than typical one-man black metal fare. Instead, the sense of “trve” applies here in the way that both acts pull black metal in to whatever direction and shape they desire, and at times almost leave the genre behind. Such a mindset is worthless if the end result is unlistenable, indulgent garbage however, but thankfully, both bands have instead recorded sides that are worthwhile both in terms of music and attitude.

Elegiac take up the first side, and continue on a remarkable run of form, both in terms of quality and quantity of output. Following the atmospheric intro track “Dark Shores Of My Mind” (all droning chants, clean guitar, and hints of dark ambient), the six and a half minutes of “Flower Of Shiva” features sections that touch upon DSBM, a whirlwood of blackened punk/crust, and discordant orthodoxy, all the while maintaining a cohesive atmosphere, with the many shifts and changes feeling entirely natural and flowing together. It’s hugely captivating, raw, aggressive, and hateful in the best of ways, and this is carried on with following track “Burning Earth”. The rawness is really pushed to the fore here, to the extent that it almost feels like the music could somehow contaminate you. There is no subtlety here, just a torrent of mid-paced brutality and nihilism. “An Offering to The Black Sky”, by contrast, is not afraid to reach for the stars with moments of relative beauty and melody, with the majority of the song being driven along by a distinctively USBM riff. The only shame is that the song fades out too quickly, making the contrast with outro “Disdain For All Things Living” a bit jarring. But despite this, it’s an overall excellent side for Elegiac, that comes across like a fist to the face.

Helvete are another one-man act who seem to approach black metal with a similar mindset; even if they do not sound much like the music Elegiac offer, you sense there is a sense of shared values between the two bands. “Death Invocation” introduces Helvete’s side with three minutes of retro dungeon synths, followed on by the funeral doom of “My Death”. Moribund and morbid, the track crawls along at a wretched pace, largely instrumental save for some moans and chants, successfully hitting that sweet spot for doom where it pulls you in and holds your attention in a deathly embrace. It is black metal in atmosphere and intention, if not in sound; whilst the subtle use of what sounds like pan pipes is an unexpectedly successful surprise. Third and final track “Journey To Unholy Lands” opens in a more restrained, almost graceful manner, before launching in to raw black metal that brings to mind the likes of Drowning The Light, with strong melodies combining with an overall feel of misanthropy. The drums are pushed high up in to the mix, whilst the bass is – of course – utterly absent. Whilst the black metal Elegiac offer up is more forceful and aggressive, this is more hypnotic and absorbing.

Which side of this split I prefer depends on my mood at the time – the bands are so different in sound. Yet this is the kind of split where there is a sense of shared attitude and outlook, ensuring that it works despite the musical differences. It also means that Elegiac continue to make great leaps forward (as evidenced by the fact they have released two more splits since this was released), making next year’s scheduled full-length something to be very excited over; whilst Helvete can be considered a very interesting new project, and it will be interesting to see where they go next, given how diverse the songs presented here are.

Split can be streamed, downloaded, and purchased on cassette via Bandcamp.

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