I love split releases. Whether its similar bands playing off of each others’ strengths or two totally different bands going toe-to-toe, there is a sense of community and camaraderie that makes split releases a joy to listen to. Plus it just feels like you’re getting more bang for your buck, right? Today, I have the pleasure of talking about Shades of Sorrow, a split that certainly delivers on the “bang,” a three-way offering of depressive black metal from the UK’s Blackened Death Records featuring Suicide Wraith, Uncanny Reality, and our very own Necrolytic Goat Converter.
The first three tracks on this release come to us care of London, UK’s Suicide Wraith, a solo project of “Pope” Richard Weeks (credited here as “Wraith”), who is also the man behind Blackened Death Records itself. A prolific multi-instrumentalist, Richard is involved in many different projects that span every genre of metal (and sometimes beyond) one can think of, but Suicide Wraith is by far the most personal of his work. Rooted in depressive black metal, Suicide Wraith is a visceral, physical manifestation of inner turmoil, given substance through ferocious riffs. Album opener “Open Eyes, Open Veins” sets a blistering tone for the album to follow, building rapidly off a brief bit of ambiance to a roaring crescendo. “Far From Grace” takes a more mid-tempo approach, but serves as a necessary counterpoint to the even thrashier “Suicide Messiah.” Even at it’s slowest, Suicide Wrath’s music takes a much more caustic approach to their craft than what most people would think of when picturing DSBM. It’s a take on the subgenre that is surprisingly refreshing, and makes for a strong opening statement that hooks the listener in for the rest of the bands to follow.
Next in the running order is three songs from New York’s Necrolytic Goat Converter. For those who may still be unaware, NGC is the recording project of good friend and staff writer Chris Voss, a man of talent both on and off the written page. Necrolytic Goat Converter is already having a banner year, celebrating the release of the project’s first full-length Isolated Evolution back in August, and judging from the songs presented here, the best is still yet to come. “An Ill-Conceived Ritual” and “Fierce Cvlt” see the full culmination of the Darkthrone influences the project has always been up-front about, drawing influence at once from both “A Blaze…” and “Circle the Wagons” by way of a flurry of punk-inspired drum beats and evil sounding, second-wave black metal guitar lines, while “Hordes of Death” might be the most menacing song from NGC yet, full of crashing, dissonant chords and an almost death metal level of crushing intensity. The material presented here hearkens back to the sound of the band’s 2016 demo, but could hardly be called a step backwards. If anything, these songs show that Chris is still more than capable of pushing himself and experimenting when it comes to songwriting.
The final three tracks on this split come from Kent, UK’s Uncanny Reality. Uncanny Reality’s contributions to this split release are at once the most recognizable as DSBM, full of the lumbering tempos and melancholic guitars that have become the hallmark of the subgenre, but sole member Immørdæk puts her own spin on the material. “Dipsomania” builds itself from a slow intro to a huge climax, with light piano touches soaring over the pounding rhythm and strong guitar melody. “Black Clouds Over England” places the emphasis on Immørdæk’s searing vocals, whose range of harsh delivery is nothing short of impressive. The album closes with the haunting “The Ghost of an Uninvited Guest,” contrasting the more melodic numbers with eerie ambient textures. Uncanny Reality’s music comes from a familiar place, but this is anything but a by-the-numbers affair.
Shades of Sorrow is an excellent addition to the canon of all three of these bands, and gifts to the listener a combination of talent from across both sides of the pond. Each of these artists provides a different take on the same core ideas, and the interplay of each of the various styles makes for a compelling listen.