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Vin de Mia Trix : Nethermost/Vin de Mia Trix (Split)

This may be an album of two unusual halves, but Nethermost and Vin de Mia Trix made sure they're both good ones.

You may well never have heard of Mexican label Throats Productions, specialising in underground Black Metal, but they've stepped up their release schedule for 2016, including slipping this split album out in early March. Despite both sporting Death/Doom tags, I wouldn't have considered Nethermost and Vin de Mia Trix natural choices for a partnership - my initial assumption was that it came out of one of those cost-cutting or publicity-drive label decisions. I was wrong, however - the team-up had been agreed between the bands some years earlier, and Throats just became the outlet for it.

I remember reviewing Nethermost's 'Alpha' EP debut some years back, and finding it a somewhat pedestrian take on Katatonia. Fortunately, the Texans have taken some decent steps forward since then, most critically in addressing the somewhat thin sound by acquiring a permanent drummer. (I missed the intervening full-length, 2014's 'Noetic', but am actually now tempted to go back and investigate). You could still validly use the K... comparison, to a certain extent, but given the gruff and forceful vocal bellows, the heftier punch of the instruments and the less prominent reliance on 'that' guitar lead, it's actually closer to The Morningside's work in similar vein. And, to be fair, it's not all comparison - Nethermost have stamped a lot more of their own personality on to the original template. Compositionally, they've pushed the typical song length out a little, and managed to fill most of that with enough dynamism and energy to carry it off. There are some excellent touches, particularly in the shape of guest violin and sax that make 'Silent Veer' a Subterranean Disposition-ish standout highlight, and some deftly-handled rhythmic transitions that the drums make possible. Unusually for me, I didn't really take to the clean vocals, guesting on final contribution 'The Hardest Part', and would have preferred more of the regular vocalist's harshness.

Still, credit where it's due: Nethermost have most definitely raised their game, and found themselves with a much broader and more interesting repertoire of elements to build upon as a result. Hopefully, there will be more of the experimental touches to come, though their basic four-piece (two guitars, no bass) Melodic Death/Doom comes across confidently and enjoyable enough, despite plenty of competition within that fairly well-populated territory.

Moving on to the second half of the album, I'm much more familiar with Vin de Mia Trix, having reviewed the Ukrainian band's debut and "live bootleg" releases, and was looking forward to hearing some new output. Not completely new material, though - it should be noted that 'Mother' is a reworking of the track 'मातृ (mātṛ)', from the debut, brought more into line with how it's played live. Vin de Mia Trix are almost the polar opposite of Nethermost, in terms of being able to compare them to anything, far less measure them against genre staples. If anything, they've been criticised for being too disparate and complex in the past - a point I disagree with, and am happy to say they're showing no signs of abandoning that approach so far. Presented here, then, are two long, complex Death/Doom pieces separated by a full-length instrumental, a little similar to the triptych format of 'Once Hidden From Sight', but instead of neoclassical piano, 'Transcendance' has a subtly Eastern psychedelic vibe to it, portentous slow-paced percussion sitting behind the violin-like sawing of (I would guess, given the absence of credited synths or strings) an e-bowed, or similar, guitar. Either side of that, both tracks should sound quite familiar to anyone who's encountered the band before, both making good use of their progressive switching of tempo and heaviness, vocalist Andrey's shrieks, deep growls and powerful cleans, as well as some voice harmonies. The percussion section, particularly with the excellent trademark chunky and free-roaming bass, is as busy and varied as any in the business, keeping things moving briskly behind the dynamic guitar lines. 'Mother' ends up as an altogether heavier proposition than before: stretched out by a minute or so, and imbued with a sense of conviction and maturity. Though recognisably the same basic song, there's a much more nuanced and vital delivery of the enigmatic lyrics, and far more depth to the soundstage - almost as if the album version could be considered an early demo of it.

In part, that has to be credited to a dramatically-improved production, perhaps the last serious hurdle that VdMT needed to overcome. Where previous studio ventures came across as, at best, adequately captured and reproduced, the material here is crystal-clear and vibrant, with a distinctness that allows the technical work of each instrument to be really appreciated. And with so much detail - especially from the guitar harmonics and the bass - packed into the elaborate and innovative compositions, I did on occasion find myself thinking of 'Starless'-era King Crimson translated into Death/Doom terms...

So, despite some initial reservations, this may be an album of two unusual halves, but they're both good ones, and sit surprisingly well in complement to each other. You get a balanced 28 minutes of each band to enjoy, wrapped in an unspectacular but at least informative package - it may have initially slipped under the radar, but it's definitely worth backtracking to seek it out.

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Reviewer's rating: 8/10


Tracklist :
1. Emanations
2. Silent Veer
3. Woeful Campaign
4. Unsound Supremacy
5. The Hardest Part
Vin De Mia Trix
6. Tranquillized
7. Transcendence
8. Mother

Visit the Nethermost bandpage.

Duration : Approx. 56 minutes

Visit the Vin de Mia Trix bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-10-23 by Mike Liassides
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