This sonic triptych of French black metal artists all contribute two tracks to this split release which comes as a six panel digipak. All the bands are offering atmospheric black metal with only Hyrgal being familiar to me previously as I reviewed their rather splendid “Serpentine” release a few months ago. It is fair to say that each of the bands are expansive, their black metal is emotive on multiple levels with each offering something different as the elusive Bâ’A are first up on the disk.

“Les Terres De La Terreur” blasts into life immediately, the corrosive riffing of the guitar work is bolstered by the relatively deeper styled vocal work that is atypical of the genre but still possesses a menacing delivery. As the track unfurls atmospheric backing effects are revealed that materialise then dissolve like phantom appearances, all the while the drumming speed is unrelenting with only periodic double bass interjections. Like all atmospheric black metal songs the track smoothly transitions from the outright fury into more subtle realms though short-lived as “La Grande Desillusion” follows with its much calmer opening sequence. The eeriness of its guitar riff and backing choral like vocals that manifest briefly are like ghostly transitions before the main vocals which are harshly spoken styled. This track is totally different, having pagan like qualities before the abrupt and tangential change in speed which works like a schizoid change in personality. The melody of the track however is steadfastly ingrained, as the double bass rolls in and a superb poignant guitar riff filters in majestically and rounds off Bâ’A’s contribution excellently.

Verfallen’s is a one man project and has two songs that are intense beginning with “Derelictus”, the volcanic blasting that immediately detonates from the start of the song is purist black metal violence. Unremitting and savage there is a primeval potency to Verfallen’s contribution to this split but as the song progresses it devolves into an acoustic piece that is equally sinister. As the acoustic playing continues, a solo acoustic guitar joins with its sombre notes and tenebrous aura that allows the metal to flood back in and escalate the track back to its full blasted stygian glory. “La Valeur Des Ténèbres” has a creepy, eerie start, the guitar riff pirouetting on an edge of anguish maintaining a slow foreboding pace. The massive surge in speed is expected as is the change in vocal style to a more typical black metal throaty delivery but what you may not expect is the plunge into clean vocals and a total change in direction toward a more folk like direction that has a cinematic like poise and is superbly executed. The aura generated is captivating, especially when the song intensifies again with the drum work and vocal start to become harsher, it all works harmoniously but is very different to the other two bands on this split.

Hyrgal’s two tracks on this split are probably the more accessible especially their first song “Césure” which has a mellifluous riff and approach that sits very comfortable with its steady beat. The harsh vocal delivery isn’t too testing either and to some degree is quite safe relative to the other two bands but like the other two bands the song shifts around by morphing the sound, increasing the drum work by using double kick and it is only in the last minute that it changes with the introduction of a blast beat. However the same cannot be said of “Sicaire”, which is a twelve minute plus composition that builds from a powering black metal foundation of double bass before wielding a fantastic riff and change to blast speed. The track is about fluidised changes like this whole split is, and this song is saturated with them, as a myriad are exhibited with each breathless second it feels. The vocals go through transformational changes to, subtly morphing in tone that you hardly notice at times as the intensity of the song is totally liquefied. However I loved the abrupt change in tempo that left a lingering riff and slow cymbal tap and beat and semi clean vocal with a pulsing bass line. As this section progresses you can feel it intensifying and intensifying until it dissolves to leave rain or maybe just water noise, thunder and acoustic guitar that is just so bleak and forlorn that takes you to the end of the song.

This split CD is a limited edition and contains three distinctly different French atmospheric black metal bands each offering songs highly engaging, captivating and imaginative.

(9/10 Martin Harris)