haarsplitThis is an interesting split album, comprising three tracks from Scotland’s Haar and the Australian black metal band Ur Draugr. This comes on the back of 2015 album releases by both bands.

I didn’t know either band before this, but after reading beforehand about Haar, I was surprised to be confronted by the darkest, growliest and creepiest black metal you could wish for. This is just cold and frosty without compromise. The tempo is never going to be picked up save the merciless battering of drums and ringing guitar. It is dismal and ultimately impressive as “Extinction”, which opens this collection reeks of death and majesty. The start of “Strings” has the air of old school Mayhem, with a discordant tone and growls to disturb the dead. It picks up and enters an anarchic section. It’s not easy listening of course, and it’s self-evidently violent, but there is control in this nihilistic and brutal black metal canvas. “Architects” starts in the same venomous and maggot-infested way as “Strings”. Again it sets off into an uncompromisingly violent and dark world. I can’t say this breaks new ground but there’s no denying its impact and atmosphere, which are heightened by the vocalist’s single word threats. A break occurs and there is a scream, before “Architects” presses on to crush and spread disease to everything in front of it. The drum beats more ominously and in a war-like fashion as “Architects” takes us finally to the depths of total despair and desolation. Impressive.

The Ur Draugr contribution is one hefty 18 minute track called “The Vista Profunda”. After a suggestive opening, it explodes and bursts into a maelstrom of blackened death, but with a strange clean harmony of a chorus to break up the searing rage. The scene is expansive, violent and more experimental than the tracks by Haar. At one point it descends into a near silent underworld with echoes and spooky tones. The band take time to develop this long passage into a scene of chasmic despair, finally and predictably exploding into more violence and screams of horror. But Ur Draugr don’t stand still. There’s even a progressive section reminiscent of Opeth. “The Vista Profunda” progresses in the darkest possible manner. Exciting changes of scene abound. There are deviations from black metal into death metal. Then towards the end there’s a breakaway into a short quirky acoustic section before the fusion of sounds together are brought together to an appropriately chaotic end.

Personally, I preferred the Ur Draugr section because of its variety and originality, which lend themselves more to future development than the slightly more generic style of Haar. This isn’t about comparison, and the sections from the two bands complemented each other well. I’d say anyone who likes their metal to be black and atmospheric should appreciate both of these bands.

(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)