This two-track, Greek BM split opens with an epic, fifteen-minute piece by Spectral Lore, whose excellent, earthy-and-euphoric full-length ‘Sentinel’ it was recently my pleasure to review. New track ‘Duty’ is similarly powerful and dramatic, albeit with a lighter tone and more progressive edge. Broadly Eastern-European in feel, it’s an urgent track at heart, galloping forward in bursts of rousing riffs that make for a potent mix of melancholy and bombast. Anguished howls rain down from above, and there are myriad hints of Wodensthrone, alongside warmer textures reminiscent of Wolves in the Throne Room. The song also takes slower turns, languishing in melodic doom/post rock breaks and lulls of gentle, sombre acoustics, before bursting back to life with a bouncing, tremolo-groove or fresh assault of cascading riffs that build to a wall of blazing melody. It closes with a huge, jubilant, folky riff that strides along with triumphal purpose, like a colossus crossing some verdant landscape, before bleeding away in a stirring haze of synth, horns, and martial drums. It’s an ambitious, hugely uplifting track that can be pretty stunning at times.

Locust Leaves take a different but intersecting approach with ‘Promise’, which kicks off in a blur of blackened DM riffing and jazzy, melodic interjections, gradually sinking into a more cacophonous and dissonant sound that brings Deathspell Omega to mind. Suddenly it shifts again, into calm, floaty, acoustic ambience and gentle spoken word, sounding spaced-out and ritualistic with a warm, proggy feel and softly-upbeat chords. Full-throated clean singing bursts forth, and the song plunges into sweltering, Mediterranean melodic doom and crashing, sludgy riffs in Isis vein,  backed by some incredibly shrill and mystical synths of the type that were everywhere on Rotting Christ’s ‘Non Serviam’ album. Some dazzlingly melodic BM gears up out of nowhere, burning briefly before the song finally winds down.

Whilst the two tracks are in many ways very different, there’s a definite crossover in terms of aesthetic, with both songs taking an experimental route that combines fierce BM elements with more delicate, even Indie-like moments of reflection. It’s a tricky mix for me, and it doesn’t always come off (see Aus Der Transzendenz for example), but here it’s handled extremely well. Spectral Lore’s track is by far the most impressive, with a visceral edge and a breathless, commanding song structure, although Locust leaves’ contribution, whilst less gripping, still manages to create a convincing infusion from its various incongruous parts.  A rewarding release, full of unexpected twists and turns.

8/10 Erich Zann