Twenty-odd years into its history, black metal has spawned so many permutations that it's easy to get lost in the labyrinthine world of the the style's microgenre offshoots. There are plenty of crusty, symphonic, bestial, industrial, or melodic black metal acts to distract fans who've grown weary of the subgenre's more orthodox offerings. Sure, there are a lot of purist black metal bands that hide behind the shield of "keeping it trve" to defend rote, uninspired songwriting, but if you totally forsake tradition for experimentation then you run the risk of missing out on some great albums. The new split EP from Barshasketh and Void Ritual is one of those albums.
The first half of the split belongs to Scotland-by-way-of-New-Zealand quartet Barshasketh. There's absolutely nothing innovative to be found here; tinny guitars, tremolo picking, and raspy "rrrrRRRRRRAAAAAAAARRRRGGGgggg's" abound. But if you yearn for raw atmospheric black metal that keeps in trve like it's 1992, you could do much worse than "Palingenisis" and "Dominion of Ashes." Both songs clock in at over eight minutes in length, but, thanks to songwriting that seamlessly blends slower passages with flurries of blast beats and tremolo tornadoes, both tracks hold your attention throughout their combined 17 minute run time. When black metal songs break the four minute mark, it can be hard to avoid sliding into boring repetition, but Barshasketh prove that a grasp of musical dynamics can breath fresh life into even the most stale of metal subgenres.
For Void Ritual's portion of the split, this New Mexican, one-man, black metal Rambo opted for an all-out frontal assault that eschews nuance for relentless barbarism. Where Barshasketh took the time to lull listeners into a false sense of security before launching a sonic attack, Void Ritual's Daniel Jackson just kicks the door in and stabs you a bunch of times. "Heaven's Gate" opens with a flurry of blast beats, roaring vocals, and wave after wave of guitars that don't let up until the final seconds of the album closing "Temple of the Sun." While Void Ritual's three offerings are much less traditional than Barshasketh's, the burliness of Jackson's music compliments the sinister slink of Barshasketh's well. This is black metal to be sure, but it's more propulsive and vitriolic. You could mosh to this if you aren't afraid of messing up your black velvet cape.
The split album is available digitally through Broken Limbs Recordings' Bandcamp page. You can also order a limited edition cassette release if your analog-fetishizing heart desires. Either way, it's only going to set you back five dollars. That's a steal for what's likely going to wind up being one of the better underground black metal releases of the year.