Petrichorus begins this split with three deeply atmopsheric black metal hymns, all of which are equally solid and convey a unique American folk twist to the atmospheric/pagan/folk/nature inspired artists of Northern and Eastern Europe who typically champion this style. The first of which is a downtempo, minimal, melodic piece, “Yggdrasil”, which bares a slight folk feel that drives the rhythm of the song and is mostly comprised of a simple but notable, repetitious melodic pattern on guitar and a unique vibe. The vocals range from paganlike, clean, echoing chorus vocals that are behind the mix to rawer black metal vocals, but with a simple song structure and a certain ambience to the song they feel more prominent and unique (?). I’m honestly loving what this Arkansas based artist is doing and aside form this split he’s also just released a full-length titled (and featuring the second song off this split), Beyond the Ancient Bluffs, which I’m tracking down as I’m writing this blurb.

Much like “Yggdrasil”, “Beyond the Ancient Bluffs”  still maintains the folksy American woods feel but is a bit thicker in overall sound and feels a bit more hearty, but not too much as to outshine the predecessor. Here the standouts for me are the sharp guitar tone to the main arpeggio melody and the way that it guides the song and morphs into a more prominent searing lead, and the ambient synth that plucks away a few notes here and there until the end as the song literally evaporates into rainfall and synth, and then pure rainfall. Although very simple instrumentally, there’s something innate to the songs that make them distinct and this guy can really keep it fluid, balancing the ephemeral with the tangible and earthy, and on “Winter’s Knot” with it’s mystical keyboard and solid lead guitar melodies, it’s pretty much beyond obvious that there’s something fresh and interesting developing in this guys work. I’m including a Youtube clip below for “Beyond the Ancient Bluffs” to give you a taste.

Next up comes the majesty of Slavic pride with Russia’s Eldenhor, another example of a triumphant modern melodic spin on pagan/atmospheric black metal where the band somewhat abandons the raw and freezing elements and creates something a bit more muscular. Nothing overtly symphonic, cliché folksy, or obvious seems to take hold here, it’s definitely pagan and galloping with a majestic feel, but somehow it’s more realand poetic in the absence of the, often times blinding, elements normally present to create those feelings/moods. I’m really enjoying “We as a Storm” and  “Another’s Coast”, my only gripe being that they are the bands only songs on here, and am looking forward to tracking down their full-length, Reflections Troubled Days (English translation). If you enjoy stuff like Falknebach than you will also find Eldenhor interesting, and to be a nice break from raw and poor production black metal of this style without being polished to the point of losing it’s sharp edge. Below is a Youtube clip off of the bands full-length:

On the entire flipside of this split, literally because the four songs comprise the entire side, is Pagan Hammer, with two original songs two covers. Coming out of the U.S. by way of North Carolina it’s a bit of a shock to get something so remarkably cold and almost Nordic/Finlandic mountainous as Pagan Hammer but underneath the freezing ghostly shrieks of supernatural vocals there is a certain warmth to the songs that is almost folksy. The rhythm is fairly monotonous, but in the hypnotic black metal vein, which works to the songs advantage and the way the rhythms never slow below caustic blastbeats keeping the galloping pace steady it’s pretty amazing how the atmosphere can stay so archaic and arctic without feeling antagonistic. Having already released material prior to this split creating atmospheres that are this incinerating and steeped in viciousness, yet still beautiful and deep, definitely not unlike much of Graveland’s work, I’m fairly certain PH will gradually surface as more become seduced into his vaporous atmopsheres. “My Grave in the Mountains”  and  “All Hope is Lost” really do encompass ones attention with its windy, undead spirit vocals that are piercing and grisly on their own but when combined with the throbbing plunder of rhythm and the blaring punkish guitar tone of the riffs they becomes less poltergeist and more ritualistic, sort of like the actual voice of a living spirit of nature. I’ve sampled some of PH’s other work such as the video below, and am looking forward to hearing more, I just wish that he put more than just two originals on here.

Like most Werewolf Promotions releases this split is an essential for the black metal listener that hasn’t gotten distracted by what passes for the style today and simply wants to put on a tape and let it blast away. It showcases three solid artists/bands and  that obscure doesn’t have to mean “shit”.