I don’t tend to listen to splits, especially when the bands in question have different musical styles that might not work well together. Despite this, I still like giving splits the benefit of the doubt, as I think they are a good showcase for bands that you aren’t familiar with and you haven’t had the time to jump into a full-length album. In this scenario, Towards the Nameless Darkness is a teaser to what both Grave Gnosis and Hvile I Kaos have been working on as they prepare to release their next albums, and for someone who is familiar with one of the bands, it might be an opportunity to experience what I have heard so much about.
On the first half of the split, we get music from Grave Gnosis, whose blend of black metal reminds me of the Australian band Golgotha Remains — they have this sinister, swamp-like texture of sound that is almost miasmic. It’s gritty, cacophonic, and relentless, which might be too much on a first listen. However, on subsequent listens, you start to notice that, underneath the griminess of the atmosphere, the music is incredibly melodic. I started to find myself shifting from not liking this specific brand of black metal to becoming invested into what the band is creating. In this vein, the music also seems to shift; while first track “Carnivorous Darkness” is melodic chaos incarnate, the second track “Vultures” is subtler in its chaos, as it focuses on the more instrumental aspect of their music. It cues the listener into foreshadowing that something unlike what they have heard thus far is coming, and that they should be prepared for when the next part begins. Although this is not the kind of extreme music I seek, Grave Gnosis clearly makes black metal as an expression of their art and their ethos, which connects well with the other band on this split.
Speaking of the other half of the split, we have Hvile I Kaos, a band I am both familiar with and have grown to enjoy over the past few months with their previous release, Black Morning, Winter Green. The shift that “Vultures” had foreshadowed has arrived and it’s unlike anything you have heard thus far. Backed by both vocals and what sounds like a violin, Hvile I Kaos showcases their blend of black metal, which is a cello-led, orchestral set that makes me think of film soundtracks. While the music can be seen as both majestic and lively, it is also sinister; there is this undercurrent that can be easily missed if you are not paying attention. While “My Hatred is Just” is straightforward in its beauty and its flow, “Locusts” is where the black metal kicks in more often, especially with how dark the music can become and how the vocals are used to indicate that something has happened but we are not sure as to what. In a sense, “Locusts” prepares you for a repeat listen of the first half of the split. Hvile I Kaos has range despite the constraints set by their instruments, which serves to remind you that black metal is not just the haunting vocals and atmosphere we have come to expect since its inception.
Towards the Nameless Darkness is a split that showcases a certain duality that is uncommon within black metal. While both bands are tied together by both their occult interest and their usage of black metal as both an expression of their art and their ethos, they are also separated by their approaches to their art. One is definitely more interested in working within their established chaos, while the other is more interested in showcasing how ritual can be both majestic and haunting. While I liked one half better than the other, I can appreciate the complexity and the superb musicianship that went into creating this split. Both bands compliment each other very well in this regard, which leads to a highly cohesive 25 minutes of music that works so well.
Towards the Nameless Darkness is available June 21 from Red Nebula Records. For more information on Grave Gnosis (Facebook, Instagram) and Hvile I Kaos (Facebook), check out their associated contact links.