Black Sheet Servitude / Odour Sonour – Shades Devouring Shadows (split)

Black Sheet Servitude Odour Sonour Front

Label: Exabyss Records

Just in case the artwork doesn’t make it clear, there’s a simple description on the Bandcamp page for Shades Devouring Shadows that makes the intentions of both Black Sheet Servitude and Odour Sonour perfectly clear: “discomfort music”. It’s hard to get a more accurate description than that. There may be clear differences between the two acts, with Black Sheet Servitude producing depraved torture industrial (as the duo define it); whilst Odour Sonour’s creations belong more to dark ambient territories. But in terms of intention – of unsettling the listener, making them as uncomfortable as possible – their aims are perfectly aligned, and they succeed in style. Challenging, unwelcoming, and incredibly harsh, this split is certainly not something to be enjoyed, but it is definitely an experience, albeit one that will leave your soul feeling soiled simply through contact with it.

Black Sheet Servitude have the first half of the split, with “Memento” taking no time at all to throw the listener in to a world of pain and torture. Harsh percussion and wildly distorted vocals combine with ominous drones and hints of sinister piano to produce something dark and evil. Tracks such as “No Anesthetic” and “Lock Your Daughters Safe Inside” take a relatively sinister approach to the death industrial style, demonstrating that sheer volume and sensory overload is not always the best way to terrify the listener. By contrast, “The Sound Of A Slashed Jugular Moaning” is proof that there is nothing wrong with loud, harsh percussion and noise, its violence and threat more explicit than on some other tracks. But what makes this side of the split most uncomfortable are the small traces of humanity that seep through, be it via the vocals (typically massively distorted, yet still recognisable) or samples used (genre staples about violence and murder). More than that though is the aura of physical, depraved sexuality that makes itself felt simply through the presence of the music. Such aspects make it clear that two actual people – people, presumably, like you or I – made this music, and that is perhaps the most uncomfortable thought of all.

Odour Sonour’s side sees them offer five tracks that are more dark ambient (or death ambient, as it has been described elsewhere) in style. Following on from Black Sheet Servitude, they feel restrained and relatively sparse – a necessary cleansing. But don’t let that lull you in to thinking they are an easy listen; the music here is just as unsettling as on the previous side, only in more insidious, subtle ways. Static winds and distant, distorted cries and howls fill the air, with sparse percussion keeping things marching onward in tracks such as “Hope The End”. “The Profusion Of Dark Lines” even sees some bleak beauty come to the fore with its melody during the first half (or at least, as close to melody as music this harsh and unsettling can possess), before collapsing in to darkness with increasing violence. Likewise, “Conclusion Of The Tears” reaches towards something majestic and awe-inspiring around the halfway mark, despite there being plenty of violence and harsh sounds at work. This side is a prime example of how dark ambient can be so addictive despite its inherently off-putting nature, pulling the listener in to its deathly grip and refusing to let go. It’s also remarkable how, in contrast with Black Sheet Servitude, there is almost no trace of humanity or life present here at all. Whilst the first side of Shades Devouring Shadows has an atmosphere of sex and violence, the second side radiates death and desolation, with the title of the final track – “Humanity Is Bound To Extinguish” – feeling like a warning that came too late.

As is often the case with a split with such differing styles, to say which side is better is rather redundant – it all depends on your mindset and what you’re in the mood for. But whether you want something dominating and harsh (Black Sheet Servitude), or more sinister and subtle (Odour Sonour), there is plenty to appreciate here (“enjoy” feels like the wrong word to use with music so inherently uncomfortable).

Shades Devouring Shadows is available on CD and to stream and download via Bandcamp.

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