While people have differing opinions on the value of the split record, I’m still a fan. Sometimes it gives fans of established bands a chance at new material outside of the traditional album format, while other times it allows listeners to discover completely new groups they’re unfamiliar with without committing to a full length. There are still plenty of labels putting out killer splits, and Doomentia Records is one of them. Their latest split is one between bands that you’re likely to be familiar with, California’s Gravehill and Sweden’s Mordbrand. Set for release on vinyl November 18th, Doomentia made the split available for purchase digitally yesterday and we’re excited to give you a chance to check it out.
Each side of this split was conceived as a stand-alone EP originally, so you’ll notice that there is a separate title and cover artwork for each band. Gravehill kicks things off with ‘Skullbearer’, which offers up four tracks of the group doing what they do best. If you haven’t heard or kept track of what they’ve been up to since 2011’s ‘When All Roads Lead to Hell’ or 2014’s ‘Death Curse’, you’ll find some noticeable differences on these new tracks. In the years that followed those releases there were some lineup changes, as vocalist Mike Abominator left and bassist Corpse stepped up to fill his place, with Bodybag Bob moving from guitars to bass to switch things around even further. But these switch-ups haven’t changed the fact that Gravehill can write some blistering black/thrash, and each of the four songs does its best to scorch everything in its path. The instrumentals hit with speed and precision, and there’s that perfect balance of fast thrash riff/solos and jagged black metal that feels like barbed wire and broken glass. I think the solos in particular are definitely worth pointing out, as By The Edge Of Our Knives and Redeemed In Blood have some squealing solos that instantly grab your attention. Corpse proves to be a good fit for the band, and his raspier screaming delivers a good deal of intensity while offering a sense of familiarity for established fans. If you liked Mike Abominator’s vocal work over the years, I think you’ll find the raspier, higher screams to be just as strong.
Mordbrand takes over with five songs, and their side of the split is titled ‘In Nighted Waters’. It’s possible you may have come across this material earlier in the year as it was put on Bandcamp as a digital download back in August, but this split gives it a proper vinyl press. If you somehow missed out on Mordbrand’s debut full length ‘Imago’ back in 2014, they’re a Swedish death metal band that has God Macabre vocalist Per Boder in their ranks. There’s a lot of bands playing Swedish death metal, both from inside and outside of the country, but this is one worth paying attention to as they have some real substance behind that familiar buzzsaw sound. While they may start off with that bottom heavy, buzzsaw tonality, the songwriting branches out enough to keep from feeling overly predictable. Mordbrand does a great job of injecting just the right amount of melody into their bottom heavy death metal riffing and there are even a few leads that take on a hint of punk. It’s close to that crossover between old-school Swedish death metal and Swedish melodic death metal before the style became a pale comparison of itself, though the songs here take a noticeable slant towards heavy and lumbering and use the melodies as an accent to make specific sections stand out. Per Boder delivers lower pitched screaming/growling that towers over the instrumentals and ups the intensity significantly, and he consistently knocks it out of the park with an intense performance. The last song Compost Christ features Mike Abominator on guest vocals, which has me wondering if this split has been in the works for a while.
‘Skullbearer/In Nighted Waters’ is a consistently heavy hitter from beginning to end from two bands that have the songwriting ability to keep listeners coming back. If you can’t wait the digital download is available now, with the vinyl set for November 18th. Hopefully this proves to be a teaser and even more new material from both of these bands isn’t too far off.