I know this is an odd way of beginning an album review, but bear with me for a second…
Have you ever seen one of those charts of hop or grape styles hanging on the wall of a craft brewery or small vineyard? The ones that list the different aromatic or flavor characteristics of each variety, including the occasional variant based on where they were grown?
Yeah…someone really ought to do something similar for regional black metal scenes. I’d like to be able to pretend that I can keep a list of every variant of black metal (or every hop style, for that matter) in my head like cold storage. In reality, though, there’s a finite amount of space up there. I just like I can never remember off the top of my head the difference between Centennial and Galaxy hops, I can’t always identify a black metal band’s place of origin by their sound.
For example, I know absolutely nothing about the black metal scene in Switzerland. I know fuck-all about Switzerland period aside from Swiss chocolate and their doctrine of neutrality in foreign wars. Listening to the forthcoming split between Swiss atmospheric black metal acts Euphrasia and Woeful Silence, I would have pegged both acts as being French. I guess that makes sense geographically, but beyond that I hear a marked Neige influence in both their sounds. The two bands come at that sound from different angles, but their styles complement each other beautifully, making this one of the most consistently enjoyable splits I’ve heard in quite some time.
Of the two, one-man project Euphrasia feels like the most overtly melodic, but with a thick layer of lo-fi grime over the top. If you can imagine Alcest’s Le Secret EP as recorded by Black Cilice, then you’ve got a pretty good idea of what his half of the split sounds like. The chord progressions in the epic “Away” have the same gossamer feel to them as Neige at his best, but the guitar sounds distant and shrill, and it has to compete for space in the mix with a clattering ride cymbal and a whole lot of tape hiss. The atmospheric “Flächenbrand” (“Wildfire”) might sound even worse, with the guitar in particular sounding more like a lovely tremolo-picked blur than a collection of individual notes. That lo-fi aesthetic definitely contributes to the charm of Euphrasia’s side, but unlike a lot of bands that opt for a similar recording technique, he actually has the songs to back it up. I am definitely curious to hear more from Euphrasia after this.
Woeful Silence, on the other hand, reminds me a bit more of Mortifera in places with its more pronounced second-wave Norwegian influence. The production values are also slightly better, making it a bit easier to discern the various parts in their two lengthy contributions. “Echoes of the Past” definitely has a Souvenirs-era Alcest feel to it, but with more traditional black metal elements, like the mix of clean and harsh vocals. “In the Gleam of Thousand Lights” covers a lot of musical territory, from straight ahead tremolo-and-blasting to a doomier middle passage to the shoegazy interlude that leads to the song’s final section.
I’d be hard-pressed to choose which side of the split I prefer, which is a pretty good problem to have with a recording like this. Whether your preference is for lo-fi or melodic black metal, there’s definitely something here that will hit your sweet spot.
The split will be available on limited-edition cassette on August. 25 via Cruel Bones.