Runespell and Forest Mysticism may conjure up a lot of different preconceptions about what’s coming down the speaker cables and out of the bass bins: mad dwarves digging for gold, elves dancing in woodland glades…. armies of darkness marching their war machines against the shining pillars of civilization? So I will try to make this to the point. Both bands hail from Australia and both have an obvious fixation on mystical times past and, perhaps it goes without saying or perhaps not, Bathory-inspired Tolkein-esque black metal. The first couple of times I heard this while doing a few odd jobs around the house I must admit the release kind of merged into one as I sawed wood, drilled walls and rummaged in the under stair cupboard that doubles up as a tool shed while looking for stray screws. But on closer inspection Runespell’s approach here is more of a rolling, grandiose Greek style – very much in the style of Macabre Omen, for example – while Forest Mysticism leans slightly more toward the more mid-paced and grainy black metal exemplified by a multitude of Ukrainian and other Eastern European BM bands using a post-black metal edge to breathe a mournful folkishness into the sound.

Runespell is probably one of those bands that you might not want to scratch too hard beneath the surface (including an Absurd cover on 2017’s Unhallowed Blood Oath and some equally revealing connections with his other band Blood Stronghold and former band Eternum). But, taken at face value, this is a fairly straightforward bit of black metal of the resoundingly epic and atmospheric variety and with uplifting and repetitious refrains that would be sadly missing from a release like this if it weren’t there. The brief acoustic interlude in the opening track could easily have been longer to better amplify the break in the silence that follows as the rousing first part of the track is blasted to new levels. And, if anything, the mesmerising effect of the Runespell’s reverberating sound is ploughed even further into the furrow on the other main track which makes fine use of lead guitars to provide what could have worked nicely as the glorious soundtrack to Faramir’s final charge had Peter Jackson the good sense to use black metal as his soundtrack rather than orchestral folk nonsense.

Forest Mysticism, a side project of ‘D’’ the driving force behind Woods of Desolation, continues in a similar vein even if its sound at first brings a more heads-down, slightly more aggressive variety – a feeling that owes thanks in part to a more ragged signature vocal performance. As a result it sounds at the same time more subtle and more substantial by comparison. The layers of reverberating ‘blackgaze’ also add a nice bit of depth and variety to the sepia Forest Mysticism sound which possibly even ends up tugging at the heart strings more than the Runespell side of the release for those willing to hopelessly fall into the trance like state on offer. Along with the couple of acoustic interludes this six track EP makes for an enjoyable enough sojourn for the average heathen black metal fan who enjoys straying into the darkest fringes looking for hidden gems. A taster of what’s on offer even there’s nothing that stands out here that other bands – including their own in their various guises – haven’t done before and better.

(7/10 Reverend Darkstanley)