I started 2021 reviewing some Dutch black metal courtesy of Sagenland’s underrated debut, and now I’m following suit in 2022 with a split from two newer bands that offer a similar level of quality. Invincible / Ω brings together one-man project Helleruin, who impressed quite a few people with last year’s War Upon Man full-length, and De Gevreesde Ziekte, who had their debut EP last year and remains cloaked in mystery. At forty-four minutes in length, this split gives each band the opportunity to further showcase their particular takes on black metal and they make the most of it with riffs that should convince people that both acts are worth paying attention to.
Helleruin kicks things off with three new songs, and Carchost has once again used slightly longer track lengths in order to let the cold and abrasive atmosphere build over time. What worked so well throughout War Upon Man was the variation of the riffs and tempos, as it felt like Helleruin was regularly switching things up and that’s once again the case here. “Invincible” opens with a nightmarish and twisted croak/scream that leads directly into layers of triumphant sounding guitar melodies, lurching bass lines, and pummeling drums. While there are some second-wave Norwegian influences present, I found myself reminded more of Finnish bands like Satanic Warmaster and Sargeist due to the shrillness of the tonality, with the triumphant and warlike cadence of Polish black metal thrown in for good measure. Closer “We Rush Ahead” is where Carchost shakes things up a bit more, emphasizing the heavy and distorted bass tone in ways that channel the genre at its rawest and ugliest. But there’s more than just cold tonality and atmosphere that make these tracks worth listening to, as the riffs remain memorable and change often enough to mostly justify the lengths. “Mijn ziel aan de duivel” does feel a bit overstretched, and I’m also not crazy about the attempt at singing that appears near the beginning of “Invincible” as it is very rough around the edges, but these are minor criticisms overall and the material here lives up to the lofty standards created by “War Upon Man”.
De Gevreesde Ziekte contributes the two songs from last year’s EP alongside one new one, and the sound changes considerably once you get to their side. Compared to Helleruin, their style is a bit more polished and cleaner but just as dark and violent which makes their music a nice complement. There’s a considerable amount of emphasis on sweeping melodies, as opening track “Zwartgallig” kicks off with swirling and ominous guitar leads that transition over to melodies that sound like they’re sending you up into the clouds with how powerful they are. While it’s not clear who is in this band, the sense of scale present in the instrumentation reminds me of the groups associated with Haeresis Noviomagi like Turia but there are some added Swedish and Norwegian influences present in the writing as well. It’s impressive how seamlessly De Gevreesde Ziekte is able to move from riffs that feel like they’re immersing you in complete darkness over to slightly brighter melodies that send you careening to the top of an icy mountain without losing any momentum, and it makes the material feel a bit more diverse than is typical for this type of black metal. The vocals stick with raspier screams and shrieks that sit slightly above the instrumentals in the mix, allowing them to gain even more intensity as the rest of the band follows suit. Even with track lengths that sprawl out towards seven and eight minutes there’s plenty to keep listeners interested the entire way through, and the varied nature of the attack goes a long way.
This split feels like the perfect merging of current and past, as Helleruin demonstrates how to channel the traditional rawer variants of black metal in ways that stand out while De Gevreesde Ziekte gravitates towards the clarity and layered attack of some of the more modern versions of the genre. Both deliver the requisite amount of violence and darkness, making this a split where the two halves flow together well, and there’s plenty here to keep listeners coming back for some time. For me it’s an early black metal highlight of this new year, and while it would’ve been nice if De Gevreesde Ziekte’s half was completely new, I suspect a lot of people may have overlooked the EP in 2021 and now get it in an even stronger package. Invincible / Ω is available from Babylon Doom Cult Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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