Keeper / Sea Bastard – 12″ split

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Sea Bastard, Brighton’s kings of monstrous doom, have made a huge impression in 2014 with their sophomore full-length Scabrous (Mosh Tuneage / Dry Cough), and here they set out to reinforce their place in the murky backwaters of the psyche with the more than able assistance of Californian duo Keeper.

There’s a track each on this nefarious ‘split’, issued by Dry Cough in Europe and soon by Medusa Crush in the US and both are of the nastiest, most monumental evil imaginable, running to 35 minutes in total. Keeper’s contribution, ‘777’, is a mere bagatelle at fourteen minutes, but is the kind of blackened doom immediately evoking comparison with Indian and Lord Mantis,Penny Keats‘ hateful scream coating claustrophobic atmospheres and rhythms veering from sparing and slow to an oppressive swell. The pace of the verse structure is torturous, dictated by tolling riffs and Keats’ resonant percussion, really allowing the harrowing horror to wind freely around the gut. It’s gloriously uncomfortable and twitch-inducing, with the squalling lead feedback of the last few moments utterly nerve-shredding.

The ‘Bastard’s twenty-minute stroll through the swamps, ‘Astral Rebirth’, is a lumbering, jurassic behemoth stalking its prey. The intake of breath prior to Ian ‘Monty’ Montgomery‘s vocal commencement is as effective and portentous as the ensuing delivery, a murderously deep and slow growl which suits Oli Irongiant’s funereal riffs, Steve Patton’s bass prowl and George Leaver‘s fearful, summoning drums. The central riff section is about as downturned as it’s possible to get, with a wailing lead undercurrent, and when that voice kicks back in to introduce a tribal quickening it is both brutal and terrifying – that lead showing brief periods of frenetic explosion which add to the slow, chopping destruction in the latter stages.

There’s a controlled brutality here, heavier yet just as ominous, this is from a dark place which no soul should inhabit but thank God for us listeners they do. Nod majestically at the front, ye worshippers, this is a mighty, frightening split highlighting the best aspects of two bands whose diseased outlook is matched by their deliberate, tolling power.

8.5/10

Keeper on Facebook

Sea Bastard on Facebook

PAUL QUINN

Amenra/VVounds – The Abyss Stares Back 12” Split

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Hypertension Records’ intriguing plan of releasing split 12” records with some of today’s most intense and serious artists began back in the spring with this little beauty which your humble scribe completely missed. After being sent to the naughty step, yours truly finally got around to listening to the damn thing the other day and (you probably know this already) is happy to report that it is gripping and compelling, often in equal measure.

On this stripped back but emotion-filled enterprise we get a dark and brooding Amenra, the clean vocal approach of ‘Wear My Crown’ underpinning, rather than lightening the sense of unease and disjointedness. There is definitely a sense of less is more here with the gaps between the notes having their own sense of impending doom. I know this is not technically possible but just take a listen. Likewise, ‘To Go On and Live Without’ is a subdued exercise in grace and elegance; heart-breaking, but in a gentle way.

By staggering contrast, the pummelling you get from VVounds is splenetic and full of bile and venom. You get the idea that VVounds are not an act to be messed about with: their heist like approach to song delivery (if song is the right word here) is without any sort of artifice or presumption; the energy is relentless and brutal; at their core is a sense of anger and injustice which leaps out of the speakers at you.

Both acts here are not for the faint-hearted, nor the casual listener. Both are intense albeit in aurally diverse ways; both though are very worthy of your time and undivided attention. My melancholy heart is with Amenra but that’s just me. Well worth investigating.

7.0/10

Amenra on Facebook

VVounds on Facebook

MAT DAVIES