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Split Review: Throne of Iron / Hillsfar – The Crypt of Blades

How are collaborations between heavy metal bands and dungeon synth artists not more of a thing? The latter genre’s roots in outsider black metal are well documented and strongly reflected in its emphasis on ambiance and medieval aesthetics, yet the movement never seemed to catch on with even the nerdiest of traditional metal circles. Dungeon crawling enthusiasts Throne of Iron have seemingly decided to try their hand at remedying this conundrum, teaming up with the mysterious Hillsfar to release an EP of four songs, two from each entity in its respective style.

While Throne of Iron is still some time away from issuing their full-length debut, their two songs are the darkest and most aggressive that they’ve released thus far. Despite opting for a largely mid-tempo pace, “Shower of Steel” and “Crypt of Blades” both exert muscular guitar chugs, hard-hitting drums, and blunt vocals. I especially like the Accept-style backing vocals and melodic bridge on the latter, but the former also has a strong anthemic quality. If the 2018 demo was aiming for Crystal Logic, then their half of this split is closer to Mystification or Out of the Abyss.

It’s not too surprising to see Hillsfar taking a softer path than their more bludgeoning brethren, but their contributions to this split are pretty scaled back even by their own standards. The songs on here lack the blackened guitar flourishes seen on 2018’s To Distant Lands and Further Still and the drum programming is incredibly distant in the mix. Fortunately, the compositions are still engaging with gorgeous textures and a somber atmosphere throughout. The buildup on “Ye Goods are Stolen!” is particularly excellent. Part of me also wouldn’t mind if these tracks were a little longer, particularly Catacombs of Misery, but it’s also nice that they don’t run too long either.

Overall, the crusade to marry classic metal and dungeon synth goes over quite well on The Crypt of Blades. Both projects’ cavernous excursions differ in sound and mood, but Throne of Iron puts in its pummeling metal with pride while Hillsfar is a smooth introduction for those unfamiliar with dungeon synth. It’s great to see these two quality projects working together; I can only hope to see great releases from them in the future and that more bands could take this collaboration as a possible source of inspiration.

Highlights:
“Shower of Steel”
“Crypt of Blades”
“Ye Goods are Stolen!”

Editor Grade

A

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