NWN have a series of split releases that started in 2015 that have been thematically linked as this split represents the third in that series which follows an alchemical concept that I won’t go into here, predominantly because I have not heard the previous two splits. On this split we have French act Ysengrin and the well-established, though unknown to me until this review, Australian band StarGazer.

Though both bands are very different there is a thread of similarity in terms of atmosphere about this split which would explain the theme the label has adopted as Ysengrin are first with their two tracks which have a focused main track and an ambient second piece. “Mont Sitrin” is the bands main tune, an eight minute expansive track that goes through various transformations as it opens up with a mournful and tranquil start and I might add that this band only uses bass guitars, which might have you thinking about Greek band Necromantia who also used this idea. The result is a laid bare sound, stripped back where the bass riffing is paired with the percussion smoothly allowing the vocal delivery to be tormented and grief stricken. As the song progresses it morphs through tempo fluctuations as the cymbal embellishments add texture to the song alongside the bass which is punctuated with bass runs. The vocals also take on various tones, with growled emanations mixed with harsher styles. The transitions through the various stages are fluid and one can visualise the songs sonic horror as in the final stages it returns to its starting formation but links nicely to the more ambient second piece “Auroraexaltatic”. The spoken voice has a slight echo, possessing a desolated and isolated aura with keyboard backing making the song have a very sombre atmosphere that proceeds until its end where an acoustic guitar is added.

StarGazer’s contribution, “The Molecular Scythe”, has a much more formulaic death metal posture initially and astute death metal fans will shout Morbid Angel on the opening sequence before the song twists away from that touch and like the Ysengrin’s focus track this song also streams through various transformations. There is a hint of technicality to the structuring of the track as the pace of the song is mid-tempo with a melodic foundation, as drum fills run rife before the whole song is turned on its head. That inversion produces are more doom like assembly with a melancholy guitar hook and drifting riff with bass hooks fringing the track. An abrupt drop into a serene acoustic phase works extremely well as the melancholy generated divides the song neatly. The mournfulness is Opeth like with a dreamy edge that floats effortlessly until the excellent riff break and harsh vocal insertion. Said riff break has a slight blackened edge to it, as this transition takes it to the finale of the song and whilst the transition could have been a little smoother the compositional flair of the band is undeniable making this split worthy of tracking down if you want something a little different in your collection.

(7.5/10 Martin Harris)