When I heard about this particular collaboration, I swear a little bit of wee came out. Seattle’s Un is still reveling in the success of last year’s coruscating, moving Sentiment (Translation Loss Records), while Scouse / Scottish hybrid Coltsblood have laid waste to the UK Underground for the last five years. This split, therefore, promises to be a leveller on both sides of the Atlantic.
With each band contributing one epic track, it’s the UK trio kicking us off with the 22-minute ‘Snows Of The Winter Realm’. A subtle, atmospheric beginning, bossed by Jay Plested’s odd drum patterns and Jem McNulty’s wailing leadwork, is underpinned by the tar-stripping bass of Jem’s hubby John McNulty and, eventually, his low roar which is so dry the flies smack into your face as they leave his mouth. It’s a tense, funereal opening which is an expansive development for this shuddering trio, with Jem’s sad solos leading to the Blackened Doom crush of riffs and John’s cavernous bellow.
The battering swell of the mid-section is pure Coltsblood: a series of horror-strewn explosions dripping with pure evil, akin to Hell’s 4×4 breaking free from its chains, all wonderfully dictated by arguably the best extreme drummer in the UK right now. In surely the greatest track by this most exciting of UK outfits, the third movement links the two poles: ethereal airs descending to dark fulminations which obliterate the nerves, the switches highlighted by Jem’s emotive guitar work, the whole an enema with a soothing yet melancholy balm to ease the discomfort.
How Un follow that is, well, by being Un. A similarly timed monument to the preceding track, ‘Every Fear Illuminated’ initially expresses less anger, instead a moving but maudlin introspection with even the explosions exhibiting desolation: a sadness where Coltsblood displayed bitter fire. The Funeral pace is retained but Monte McCleery’s scour is that of an aged, dying warrior, filled with the pain of passing down tales of his massacred people.
Dictated by melancholy guitar work the atmospherics of the second movement are subtle, while a shimmering gong alludes to blasts of fire which do not materialise: instead the beauty of mournful guitars and sparse, pregnant drum beats. Even when the explosion does arrive, the permafrost is coated in a contrasting warmth which lends itself more to avuncular wisdom than railing against fate. The wonderfully expressed comedown of the third quarter is a protesting deconstruction of time, a tolling riff and blackened scour descending into the chasm of the track’s eerie, ringing denouement.
This is the kind of release that piques every emotion, strains every sinew, straddles aeons, and which should command any price should its protagonists decide to play it out in a live setting. A release which affirms the importance of both bands in today’s Blackened Doom scene, a perfect portrayal of the harshness of winter and the hopelessness of eternal fear.
9 / 10