SmoSplitA split CD of two bands playing obsidian blackness and although both are new to me our paths have crossed indirectly. French outfit Smohalla are linked via bass player Camille’s involvement in the head stewing experience that is Stagnant Waters and he is joined in this duo by the mysteriously named Slo who basically does everything else. The project has delivered one previous album Resilience back in 2011 and a couple of other bits and pieces but this was my first experience hearing their somewhat harrowing sound. With the Stagnant Waters link I hardly expected them to be straightforward and although ‘Sa Voix Transperce Nos Fronts’ starts off slowly enough it suddenly batters away, flying all over the place in a slew of conglomerated riffing. Clean vocals lurk low in the background and it is all quite deranged. There is also some raw, rasping guttural vocal howls which become more defined and really remind me a lot of Vaerohn from Pensees Nocturnes and Way To End, I actually thought it was him at first considering the maddening style of the music and the fact that they are all French. It certainly pierces more than just the sides and leaves the head somewhat spinning. There’s a bit of Emperor about ‘La Main d’Abel’ it has that pompous feel about the orchestrations and a progressive twist about it but again it is all dished up at a maddening dash and it is difficult to filter all the subtler nuances out of the giddy sound mix. ‘Õ Deluge’ calms things down and we go neo-classical and ambient with piano tinkling away before Goblin, Tangerine Dreamesque film soundtrack sounding music takes over. It’s a more than interesting and eerie contrast before final track ‘Les Passagers Du Vent’ blows back in with weird avant-garde tendencies proving that even playing it slow this lot can prove themselves as a strange entity. Of course it’s not long till the track goes off like the clappers and this segment of the split certainly does a good job at making you feel like you have been dragged through a hedge backwards. (6.5/10)

Omega Centauri hail from the not so twin towns of Bournemouth and Gothenburg. Again they are a duo with the Brit side Tom Valley providing all instruments and Svograth vocals. Here I have a bit of a crossover as well as Tom is also drummer in Lychgate who I recently wowed over. We have long tracks here the first couple being 9 minutes each. There is a grim pervading feel about them and the music is sinister and full of nervy tension. Vocals are suitably vile and riffs are sharp and again somewhat skewed and lurching. I am reminded a bit of Blut Aus Nord as the weave of Naissance gets its sharp talons in and shreds skin. Big flurries see the track bursting into all out assaults and the vocals at full release really are cadaverous and sound like they should reside in the mausoleum at home with the dead. The good thing about this lot is the atmosphere and the sense of melody they create and everything is much more defined than it was with Smohalla. ‘Submission’ shows another side completely as it goes for a slow depressive feel and really draws you into its repetitive maudlin tones, peaceful yet full of sorrow Perhaps the band overdo things a little on last number ‘Desuetude’ the name of which Obsolete could be a bit of an in joke. 20 mins we have sound of rain and meandering acoustic guitar then lots more rain. Then 8 minutes of silence then what sounds like a ship sailing over water then finally some jagged and pulsating electronics, choral feedback and big riffs. Yep in a word “skip” it’s all surplus to requirements. Still apart from this another intriguing proposition and I am pleased both these bands hit my radar. (7/10)  

(Pete Woods)