Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Frostwork / Cruelty's Heart - Beyond Bloody Banners Far And Haunted Winters Graven - Album Review

Year: 2014

Europe is the hub for black metal. Though black metal exists outside Europe, the European bands have the better quality and quantity. UK is one place which played a vital role in the shaping of this genre with bands like Venom giving a big boost to black metal. But today, there are very few black metal bands from the UK. Is the black metal scene there dwindling? Or is it just a myth? Judging by this release, it sure looks to be the latter. 

Cruelty's Heart

The first band to feature in this split is Cruelty's Heart. This is a three man pagan black metal project with members from the UK and Denmark. This band does a crossover between pure heavy metal with pagan folk touches and black metal. The result is something that sounds grandeur and epic.

Had it not been for the vocals, this could have been easily mistaken for some heavy metal band that influenced black metal. Sure, there are moments where one could call it pure black metal. But for the most part the music stays firm within the heavy metal realm with a great amount of pagan folk overtones. 

Guitarist Bloodletter's riff has instances where he is tremolo picking and showing his black metal influences. In contrast to his guitar work which shows mixed styles, his vocal work is firmly black metal as he renders some high pitched, blood curling shrieks. And then there is this atmosphere that prevails throughout the album that makes the listener feel like he is sitting in the middle of a medieval battleground with swords and shields clashing all around him.

The bass work of Jens Forsberg-Olesen sounds massive and contributes a great deal in invoking the above mentioned atmosphere. The drummer Mikael Dupont has a style that is able to adapt well with both the black metal and pagan metal flavors. The production is done to suit the music where the atmosphere is given ample room to shine.

Cruelty's Heart execute the mix of genres extremely well and kick off the split in a grand fashion.


The second half of the split is done by Frostwork which is a one man black metal project hailing from the UK. Dagon, the man behind the music offers a more emotional form of black metal. 

This side of the split alternates between non metal atmospheric tracks and raw black metal tracks. The non metal tracks sound absolutely beautiful with clean guitar work and loads of atmospheric elements. They offer good variety in between the raw black metal tracks. 

The black metal tracks themselves sound raw yet deeply emotional. They could be called borderline depressive. The music takes its time and is not rushed at all. High pitched guitars create a thick impenetrable atmosphere while the bass holds the low end. The riffs though simple, combined with the tormented vocals and the atmosphere, sound deep. 

There are instances where clean vocals are employed and Dagon's deep baritone-ish rendering makes it sound like the chanting of an enigmatic wizard. In tracks like 'Humanity is Cold' the black metal blizzard halts to give way to beautiful clean guitars and it manages not to sound contrived.

Frostwork offer a more straightforward, yet more emotional form of black metal that, true to the band's name, manages to evoke a chill in the listener's heart. 

Cruelty's Heart's epic mix of black metal and pagan metal, in combination with Frostwork's raw assault, make this UKEM Record release a must purchase for any fan of black metal. Furthermore, this split offers hope that maybe the black metal scene in the UK is not so dead after all.

Rating: 90%

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