Hell/Vorkuta - Split (Stygian Shadows Productions CS)
One of the finer pleasures in life is scoring obscure black metal tapes on the cheap from local stores and/or distros. This one I picked up at the same time I got that whack of Sunburned stuff from a local shop I'd never been in before. It also helps if you, like me, don't really know a whole heck of a lot of black metal (I like to choose them based on the cover art and, if I recognize it, the record label). It turns out this is a split between two Hungarian bands, released by a record label who also appear to be based in Hungary (or, at least, they sure do release a lot of albums from Hungarian bands). Each band contributes 2 songs (roughly 10 minutes per side) and the cassette is limited to 150 copies, hand numbered.
The imaginatively-monikered Hell take the grandstand first with two tracks that originally appeared on a June 2005 demo CD-R. The band is comprised of Angmar on vocals, M on guitars, Noctis on bass and Khrul on session drums. Additional vocals are also provided by a Doktor K, but I must say in the two run-throughs I had of the side I was oblivious to the fact that there were two singers (and to the fact there was a bassist, but that's black metal for you). "Summoned in Blazing" and "Flames of Sacrifice" are both (as you might've guessed from the titles) fiery romps through Burzum-influenced BM, although far more treble-y than anything Varg ever laid down. Much like their name, the music Hell put forth isn't terrifically remarkable, but they pull off competent black metal and that suffices for me. They've got this kinda bizarre guitar twangy thing going on with the first track that was somewhat ill-fitting, but I did dig the brief outro that concludes the side; a wash of dark ambient glurge and distant screams.
Vorkuta's side was also recorded in 2005, but unlike Hell, they've contributed brand new tracks: "Black Winter" and "Journey in the Night". Vorkuta are Blizzard (vocals), Inmar (guitar and bass), Martin B. Hellspike (guitar and bass) and Nihilist (session drums). The band also has a bit more history than Hell, having been around since 2002 with quite a few splits and demos already to their name. It shows - Vorkuta's tracks are much more intricate and better-composed than their A-side counterparts, and a step faster too. They sound kinda like early Darkthrone, although with not as much punk influence. Again, nothing outrageously unfamiliar but delivered with impressive wherewithal. "Journey in the Night" is the winner of the four songs, notable for it's crushingly stomped drums and horrific, guttural vocals on Blizzard's part. I'll definitely keep my peepers open for more from these guys.
At the end of the day I think what I enjoy most about this release is the bangin' cover art, which you can view in all its glory up there and to the left. It suggests something about hell and souls and suffering and all the lovely things good black metal is traditionally about. Coming soon: more obscure "found" BM tapes for me to dash off quick blurbs about!