Leave it to the end of the year to drop what is ultimately a rather strange release into your lap. Here we have a split between two competently skilled death metal bands, Horror God and Techne, each showcasing their abilities across eight tracks seeped in discomfort and disdain. There’s a fair amount of experimentation on the traditional death metal formula that keeps listening from feeling too derivative, particularly on the latter half of the split, but a lack of truly memorable songs is what ultimately holds the experience back from reaching its full potential.
The first side of the split dedicates itself to Moscow residents Horror God. With two full lengths under their belt (2009’s Cold Shine and 2012’s Planet of Ruins, respectively) it’s safe to assume that they have the most experience of the two bands on the split, and they do leave an aggressive mark, for better or worse. I will be up front, the opening track “Golden Billions” is my least favorite of the four they bring to the table. It kicks the album off in a cluttered manner, with dissonant chords thrown over claustrophobic arrangements that don’t flow that well, and dwindling lead guitar parts that feel out of place. Thankfully, first impressions are not the most vital in this case. The band’s proceeding two tracks, “Dust” and “We Are,” the second of which is my favorite of the group’s, do a much better job showcasing Horror God’s strengths. Frantic drumming, eerie melodies, and a choppy mid-tempo flow (somewhat reminiscent of early Immolation) pad out a cranially dislodging path of audial decimation for the listener to behold. There is a lot to take in throughout certain passages, but the overall trip is a sensory overload worth the ride upon reaching its climax, a cover of Canadian death metal legends Purulence’s “Sinking Into Transparency.” Being an eclectic mix of shifting rhythms, flipping from a doom-like crawl to hectic blast beats without so much as a moment’s notice, the cover is both a fitting conclusion to Horror God’s side (as it was Purulence’s way of closing out the split it originally appeared on) and a solid palette cleanser to make way for the B-side of the album.
Techne’s half of the split is without question the more intriguing, possibly because the band is so mysterious, both musically and literally. Outside of the four songs featured here, and the fact that this is apparently their last release, there is absolutely no information about this band available online. This is a shame because their take on the death metal genre is one of the more interesting I’ve heard. Making use of what sound like broken keyboards and a layered vocal delivery, the opening track to their portion of the album, “Breathe,” weaves through echoey clean passages and dual guitar harmonies into a slow, devastating rhythm that carries the track. This plodding tempo carries over into “Conviction” and “Techne,” although it is occasionally traded for faster transitions that feature more winding lead guitar work and light background synth. The keyboard’s ambiance dramatically expands these songs’ templates from downtempo death metal to airy compositions that feel alive. If anything, they may drag on a tad too long for their own good, but with this being the band’s last (and perhaps only?) release, this critique feels moot. Techne carries atmosphere, and balances it on top of raw but competently made dirges. That alone is an accomplishment. The split’s final track, appropriately titled “Finita la Commedia,” is a great instrumental that briskly closes out the album with theme-worthy melodies and a sitar that occasionally chimes in over clean guitar breaks.
This album left me with a few mixed impressions, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy a good portion of what it had to offer. Even if only in a passing listen, there will likely be something here that any longtime fan of death metal can enjoy. Whether that’s the in-your-face ruckus of Horror God and their tribute to an old school classic, or the brooding compositions of Techne, is solely up to personal taste. I wish nothing but good luck to the members of Techne of their future endeavors.