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Sol : Sol/Begräbnis (Split EP)

A surprisingly complementary and oppressively heavy Drone/Ambient/Funeral combination.

Okay - another release in the ever-popular split format. Still not really my favourite way to package up music, though I understand why it's often a good deal for bands and labels. And, in this case, all of the aforementioned have form in delivering some pretty decent shared works.

Denmark's Sol have issued previous works with occasional partner Blóðtrú, either in split or collaborative fashion, and also with Grivf, alongside a back catalogue filled with some fairly iconoclastic works that have been substantively shaking up the Death/Black/Folk/Martial/Doom boundaries for some years now. So it's perhaps not a surprise to see such a fiercely genre-bending act team up with odder-than-odd Japanese Funeral Doom band Begräbnis (last seen sharing space with Estrangement, on another Weird Truth split). They're not exactly traditionalists themselves, writing exclusively in German, having no drummer, putting a theremin front and centre, and with a female vocalist who can out-growl most men. So, Weird Truth are certainly mixing it up, on paper, giving such varied styles an airing together - is it a gamble that works?

Well, yes, if you want my honest opinion, though the somewhat plain card sleeve offers minimal information, and no particular enticement - unless you're already familiar with the band names - to venture past its enigmatic cover painting. Once that hurdle's overcome, the first and most noticeable thing is the ever-flexible line-up of Sol has few personnel in common with the last couple of albums, and credits - among other instruments - accordion, viola, cello, sax and trombone. Several of those put in an immediate appearance, etiolated and dissonant, in the dirge-like introduction to 'Harvest'. None of which is unprecedented - the accordion first featured on 2007's 'Let There Be A Massacre' debut, and the others have been used on varying occasions since. The funereal pace, minimal percussion, and almost Dark ambient feel of the background drones and distortion carry on some of the motifs of 2016's 'The Storm Bells Chime', but with a darker quality. Echoing, grim and disturbing, with the viola keening and sawing over the murky ebb and flow, it resembles nothing so much as a death march slowed down to an absolute crawl. Its counterpart, 'Nest' is even more abstracted, with bursts of white noise, buzzing vocals and odd, half-heard background noises against the threnodic wails of the instruments - a nest, perhaps, but if so it conjures images of one like the subterranean nightmare in Lovecraft's 'The Lurking Fear', with devolved, twisted humanoids scurrying through midnight-black tunnels.

Following that, Begräbnis weigh in with their 'Ouroborous' contribution. Longer than any of their previous works, it does indeed begin with the otherwordly shrieks of the theremin, echoing as if in vast caverns. A slow-burning, minimalist introduction - distant, gentle guitar, soft keys and comparatively gentle verses (which, I'm fairly certain, despite the extreme growl and odd accents, are in English this time) - persists for about half the track, fitting well into the mood set by Sol. So, when the drum machine and hefty Funeral riffs do finally start up, it's a contrast, but an appropriate one that forms a natural end to the split. A little subtler, and with a lot more texture to the composition, than their two early EPs, it's a continuation and evolution of the improved production that marked 'Reinlich Weisse Trauer' on the previous split, and one that shows Begräbnis building on their strong sense of identity. Harsh, brutal and cold as it is, it's very much an appropriate choice for this release - and, bizarrely - even comes across as less oppressive than the other half, as though the subterranean claustrophobia might finally give way to some more recognisable open space.

Well, it's a dark voyage, without doubt, right up to the spooky closing whispers, their incipient madness the most cheerful point on the album. The theatrical, almost cinematic ambience of the music calls to mind horror movies like The Descent (itself strongly drawing on 'The Lurking Fear'), and being sucked ever deeper into a lightless terror, at the end of which lies only a false hope of escape. Despite the unconventional line-ups, and the largely-absent percussion, it also manages to articulate a surprising power and heaviness. That shouldn't be a surprise, if you're familiar with the two contributors, but I really didn't expect them to also complement each other so well. A highly recommended half-hour of soul-searing gloom.

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Reviewer's rating: 8/10


Tracklist :
1. Harvest
2. Nest
3. Ouroborous

Visit the Begräbnis bandpage.

Duration : Approx. 31 minutes

Visit the Sol bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-02-12 by Mike Liassides
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