The split opens with Panzerwar’s “A Reflection of Dehumanization”: the sound of lonely space travel, soft whirring and muted howls of cold mechanism; synth strings tighten as one weaves through some lunar canyon, a slow gong announcing the arrival at a red shimmering lake. And then immersion: “Echoes of the Undead Call” finds us spiraling headlong down into that magmatic lake to some sunless depth. This is the sound of navigation at the very edge of control – every drumbeat feels like careening off gigantic stalagmites as we descend in the twist of planetary guts.
The subsequent two tracks – “Disharmonious Hymns of Malice” and “Altar of Blood and Dust” – take similar approaches: drums that keep tempo with kamikaze strikes – aloft and then suddenly crashing, from this angle and that; guitars like the sound of four-ton engines shredding apart against a warship hull; pyretic vocals that hiss and roar like a jetfuel firestorm. The pace is disorienting enough that when a wicked NWOBHM-inspired riff pops up around 2:00 for ten or so seconds, one feels like you’ve got hold of a life-preserver (albeit also on fire) as machines of war immolate themselves against each other mere yards away.
Alghol’s side begins with the sounds of an ill-advised search through the sewers under an abandoned nuclear plants in “From the Caverns…”: wind that’s lost its way down in tunnelsdripping with thorium-spiked water, as the keys indicate a cautious search – cut short by an encounter with the creature whose territory we’ve overstepped. Which part of your body doesn’t suddenly have a tooth or claw in it is hard to tell, and hardly able to be considered as cold venom crystallizes its way up your veins. But here we are transformed: we become the creature, its ferocity ours, with vocals something like the beast itself welcoming us into an existence outside the gaze of God and men.
“Blood Brew”, perhaps the best of the bunch, opens with a surging guitar-and-drum pairing that feels like jetting through subterranean tunnels slicked with radioactive sludge, grabbing the unsuspecting ankle standing too close to the manhole cover, and then – after a breakdown, to enjoy the repast of a surface dweller – a bark sets off the next hunt: this one not for hunger but for the sheer sport of it. “ The Skeletal Key” most clearly highlights Alghol’s subtle, judiciously-placed synthwork through this split, adding a delicacy to the dissolution of the opening minutes, a dirge for chumming wastewater. The last third of the track rips open with a fully-automatic tremolo riff, unloading clip after clip of 32nd notes – a failed attempt to stop the predation of this gut-slicing gutter-wolf, who escapes to the haunted music-box tones of split-closer “ Malevolent Transmissions”. (AJP)