The French label Debemur-Murti has gathered a very impressive list of artists over recent years, featuring great bands such as Year of No Light, Rosetta, and October Falls. Recently, they have put together a split LP featuring one of the most notable members of their arsenal, Blut Aus Nord. Undoubtedly one of the leading acts in avant-garde black metal, BAN have brought their abrasive sound and deep occult sensibilities together with another French act known for dark and sludgy industrial drone, P.H.O.B.O.S., to release three songs each on the album Triunity. It’s a record smothered with the darkness and contempt fans of either band would expect, along with the experimental surprises that BAN and P.H.O.B.O.S have characterized their work with across 20 and 14 years, respectively.
‘De Librio Arbitrio’ begins BAN’s side of Triunity, with the first noticeable difference from the band’s prior releases being a live drum track replacing the inhuman industrial sound of drum machines. Whispering vocals and synths haunt demented riffs that rumble mercilessly like the destructive treads of an armoured column pulverising the bodies that litter a battlefield. At the song’s halfway mark, the Frenchmen bring in triumphant melodic counterpoints to the nastiness, giving their black metal a solemn and regal atmosphere that would be the envy of any doom band. The finish is astounding, with all of the gut-churning angular discordance that made BAN’s 777 trilogy such a landmark work in avant-garde black metal. Its utter malevolence will challenge any listener to resist walking outside and viciously biting the first person that they see.
‘Hùbris’ places BAN‘s material on this release at its deepest point within a symphonic doom metal sound. Ritualistic choral vocals and a greater melodic emphasis have this as perhaps one of the least progressive and more accessible pieces of metal BAN have written… which is not to detract from it. Their skill at a producing a grandiosity and heaviness in their music makes ‘Hùbris’ quite the epic slab of ritual black doom. In terms of tempo, it would not have been out of place on a P.H.O.B.O.S. record.
Blut Aus Nord departs with ‘Némeïnn’, returning to the pitch black discordance they are better known for. Vindsval’s guitars are, as always, in a class of their own at creating the sense of a murderous whirlwind, as though you are enveloped in a cataclysm of enraged, hateful wasps. All too soon, BAN’s contribution is over, tremendously heavy, with its processional doom metal motifs strongly reinforcing the inference of collaboration with, or tribute to, the French industrial doom-drone project that produced side B.
Furthermore, P.H.O.B.O.S. exhibit the discordant heavy qualities of BAN in their work on Triunity. If there was collaboration, a success of this mutual influence is that each band is able to remain true to their previously well-established sounds, whilst broadening the potential through feeding off of each other’s styles. Listening back through both bands’ catalogues of releases (with BAN’s being particularly vast and evolving), there is certainly enough evidence of a natural fit to these two French artists working together.
P.H.O.B.O.S starts with ‘Glowing Phosphoros’, a sparse piece of electro-industrial with swirling, pitch-shifting drones and prominent grim black metal vocals. After the density of BAN’s material, the sparser dynamics of the track reminiscent of the spaciousness of Have a Nice Life or Author & Punisher is a quality jarring enough to suggest that the bands might not complement each other as well as one might expect. Thankfully, this does not linger beyond the first P.H.O.B.O.S track. The band’s use of effects is well established in its brilliance; and, it is no surprise to know that James Plotkin, a long-time champion of such a talent, mastered the tracks.
‘Transfixed at Golgotha’ and ‘Ahrimanic Impulse Victory’ follow, with the heavier effects-fuelled guitars tying the second half of the release together with the first. In the latter song, the evocation of Vindsval’s guitar style is strong enough to even suggest that it could very well be him playing. It is evocatively retrospective to hear P.H.O.B.O.S incorporating more of a metallic sound amidst the washes and drones. ‘…Victory’ is the climax of an increasingly claustrophobic mix by the band’s more recent standards, with totally dominant guitar layers harkening back to their work in 2005. Overall, fans of heavy industrial and EBM will be pleased by the heartless, mechanical gloom conveyed by P.H.O.B.O.S. on Triunity.
Triunity may not be flawless, an admittedly relatively much more difficult challenge for any split release compared to a band producing on their own. Perhaps its most interesting quality is the enhancement of both acts’ willingness to go avant-garde, through invoking each other’s contrasts when producing the record. Personal taste will dictate which side is the stronger. For those who share a great love for experimental black metal, doom, and industrial music, Triunity is an intriguing album that provides two exciting tastes of what may lie ahead.
- The Black Captain, july 2014