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Split Review: The Negative Bias + Golden Dawn – Temple of Cruel Empathy / Lunar Serpent

The upcoming Temple of Cruel Empathy / Lunar Serpent split is a labyrinthine creature unleashed by two true Austrian black metal architects; The Negative Bias and Golden Dawn (respectively). An opaque but riveting listening experience, this split is unlike any other I have listened to or reviewed. Let me walk you through my journey.

“The Temple of Cruel Empathy” by The Negative Bias opens with howling winds and a swelling organ. Symphonic, pounding guitars cut in while a ghostly sample haunts my ears. The pace of the opening side of this split is slow, marked by controlled blast beats – this is a departure from the “trve” Norwegian style that many artists attempt to emulate. In a word, The Negative Bias has crafted an epic experience fit for a film score.

The vocals on “The Temple of Cruel Empathy” tend toward a cold growl backed by aforementioned blast beats. The middle of the track splices in melodic chanting samples (fit for a stone cathedral) before veering back into the golem-like growls which led me here. Dare I say it, the chanting is catchy. The tempo picks up midway through the track as pained vocals dissipate to make way for another round of chants. Finally, The Negative Bias delivers a satisfying synth-enhanced outro, building up to an urgent and beautiful chant, rounding out the 11-minute A-side. Both the duration of this piece and its waves of emotion showcase the creative energy poured into this album.

Flipping the record, an even drone opens the Golden Dawn side of this release. “Lunar Serpent” emits more of a snarl than your classic black metal shriek. The vocals are delightfully lo-fi and mesh fascinatingly with the hi-fi instrumentals. The tempo is easy to get into and the drum beat remains controlled throughout, building the track’s atmosphere. Simple synths crop up throughout “Lunar Serpent” – these get really interesting toward the end, creating a retro game-reminiscent vibe interrupting (around 4:18) the B-side of the split.

It’s not cut-and-dry black metal, but I wouldn’t know what else to call “Lunar Serpent.” Doused with just enough symphonic elements to break up textbook black metal riffs, the track keeps you engaged and curious about the next turn. Toward the middle, clean vocals layer over the now-familiar snarls adding more dimension to the track. There’s a lot happening here – almost too much at times. “Lunar Serpent” leans hypnotic toward the end, maintaining the synth and tempo-generated atmosphere. While the vocals get aggressive, this track is meditative, guiding rather than attacking of the senses.

Although occult references are evident in both track titles and the cover art, this is a dense release musically as well. Each side of the split exceeds 10 minutes and is imposing in its own right. The pairing of these two tracks in a single record is mesmerizing – as they are distinct in their style, they share many similarities beyond those which can be gleaned from this review. Due to the engaged listening needed for this album, I give it a B+, as I think this limits its appeal to a particularly enraptured audience. Take that as the challenge that it is and grab a copy of the ‘Temple of Cruel Empathy / Lunar Serpent’ split.

To be released on April 6th, 2018 by Seance Records. Purchase this split here and be transported to the astral plane.

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