It’s only been a little over two months since One Master unleashed their masterful Lycanthropic Burrowing upon the world, and they’re already back with a new split release. Scheduled for release on the eve of One Master’s appearance at this year’s Red River Family Fest, the split pairs them with mysterious Red River duo Ninhursag. It’s an interesting contrast in styles, with One Master sticking with their more riff-centric East Coast approach to black metal and Ninhursag opting for a much more outré style, but it’s a contrast that works well.
As big a fan as I am of One Master, I was actually somewhat skeptical when I first heard about this new release. Coming so closely on the heels of their last full-length, I was worried that it would be one of those ‘leftover tracks not good enough for the album’ kind of releases. Fortunately, that’s not the case here. For starters, the production on the two tracks here has enough subtle differences from Lycanthropic Burrowing—particularly in terms of the guitar tone, which is clearer in the mix without necessarily sounding any cleaner—that I’d be surprised if they were recorded during the same sessions. More importantly, though, both tracks are also really good. “Stormdivision” is a moody track with some gnarly guitar interplay in the intro that pairs a slow, sinister arpeggio (which pops up again in the closing section of the song) with a tremolo-picked rhythm line. “Ironspirit” has more of a punkish feel to it, with a relatively simple riff that carries the bulk of the track with little variation. Instead, variations in the drum patterns and tempos fill in where the riff changes would ordinarily be. It’s a very cool effect, and does more than enough to sustain the build and release of tension in the track.
Ninhursag side of the split is a little harder to pin down. They describe themselves as ‘black metal from The Sacred Mountain,’ and there’s definitely the feel of something spiritual or otherworldly in their raw black metal. In some ways, their contributions remind me a bit more of the far-reaching, black metal in spirit only approach of some of the Black Twilight Circle bands. The 8+ minute “Uva Ursa” almost defies description with its lurching, tribal tempos, eldritch vocals, and sudden changes in tones and styles. I fact, the track has a similar to feel to the more pastiche-oriented tracks on Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew in terms of its jarring juxtapositions. The other three tracks are more straightforward sounding by comparison, but no less harrowing as a result. “Hellebore” in particular pairs a marital, almost industrial-sounding drumbeat with minimalist guitars and hellish vocals for chilling effect.
So for most black metal fans, One Master will likely be the draw here, but I’d also strongly suggest sticking around and approaching the Ninhursag side with an open mind. It’s definitely more the more challenging side of the two, but the patient listener will likely find just as rewarding as One Master’s side after a few listens. Good stuff all around on this one.
Unfortunately, there are no embeddable preview tracks for this split. However, one track from each band can be heard exclusively over at No Clean Singing.