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Album art for the Split LP by BLK OPS and Cave Bastard.

Two bands, two styles — such is the premise for most metal splits. Austin’s BLK OPS and San Diego’s Cave Bastard don’t diverge from that most sacred pattern on theirs, but the sounds you’ll find within may twist your expectations in surprisingly pleasant (and completely crushing) ways.

Austin, Texas's BLK OPS (photo by Necroblanca Photography).

BLK OPS is an odd one. They’re manned by members from Kill the Client, Pornohelmüt, and Clrvoyant. They play live with swirling, psychedelic visuals superimposed over them for their entire duration of their set. Vocalist Champ Morgan plays a pealing, screeching theremin. They don’t have a bass player. Yet even without the visual and sonic intensity of their live shows, you can’t help but acknowledge the “psychological warfare” angle that BLK OPS proclaims. Their side of the split is shot through with a harsh hissing that’s like listening to a bad acid trip — noisy, unnerving, and utterly ultra-violent. The guitars, which crackle in the stratosphere without bass to ground them, cut with a sharpened edge on heavy, distorted riffing and disquieting leads. Morgan’s theremin (and other noisy implements) contribute to the storm; songs like Hallucinogenic Bomb Vest explode with static against clanging downbeat snares, changing time meters fluidly without losing an ounce of aggression. Things even get a little mathematical on Truth Fuckery, although the most nuanced number is the nearly six-minute Suicide-Laced Sugar Cubes, which enfolds pummeling syncopated passages over each other in a mesmerizing, subjugating fashion, like a hand that forces your face to the gravel.

This split shows BLK OPS totally succeeding as a band that not only eats up the rules and shits ’em out — they’re shitting ’em out of orifices you can’t even fucking handle. The second track, completely comprised of a harsh synthscape against some dystopian movie clip, would seem like a throwaway, momentum-stopping buzzkill from any other band — but BLK OPS makes it — and the rest of their songs, work effortlessly.

San Diego's Cave Bastard (photography by Cari Veach).

Compared to BLK OPS, Cave Bastard seems more straightforward, though no less anarchic. A four-note hi-hat count launches into the fearsome Vatos Ciegos, a hauling 1:21-second monster fueled by barrages of double-bass, frenzied riffing, and throaty roars. Hobocide follows it up, channeling a duel between two derelicts with gurgling bass and thunderous toms. The songs follow a similar pattern of whipping between riffs while never letting up the pounding pace.

Overall, the drummer goes light on the blasting, which I appreciate — the typical blast-heavy fare could have made Cave Bastard’s short songs seem repetitive and uninspired. Instead, the musicianship exudes creativity, despite the songs’ lengths — for example, Violent Perpetrator entwines toms and kicks that add flavor and variety. The other instruments are worth jabbering about too — the ceaseless tremolo attack of the guitars evoke a ferocious beast on the prowl. At times, they open up into powerful, skull-rattling chords, but then they’re on the move again to grind you to dust. Full, heavy bass notes (played by ex-Cattle Decapitation member Troy Oftedal) open up the nearly nine-minute Red Star. The beast that had pursued you so fiercely from before now trudges ahead, with vocalist Steve Pearce voicing its low, skin-crawling growls as the song unfolds and slowly devours your mind.

Both sides of this split comprise short, adrenaline-surging jolts that are end-capped with lengthy, punishing songs. But that’s where the similarities end — both BLK OPS and Cave Bastard deliver different doses that affect your listening experience in ways you don’t quite expect. That said, I do have a couple critiques. I’d love to see Cave Bastard flesh their material out further; I could see them accomplishing great things with songs in the four- to five-minute range. Similarly, I’m eagerly awaiting to see what BLK OPS does next, both in terms of technicality and their psychedelic/psychological, cinematic aspects. I’m very much looking forward to monitoring how this split affects the DNA of both BLK OPS’ and Cave Bastard’s future releases.

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Eric Seal Eric Seal is the head writer at He used to think 'Hellbilly Deluxe’ was a scary album, but he's proud to say he listens to much scarier music now.