As regular visitors to our site well know, I’ve been carefully following the releases of Seattle-based Vermin Lord, beginning with the project’s excellent 2016 debut album Anguish. Last Friday brought another new Vermin Lord release, this time a split with the Seattle black metal project Nihtwintre.
Both sides of the split are very good, both of them shrouded in darkness, sorcery, and loss, though musically the two bands are quite distinct from each other. There’s a full stream of the split at the end of this post, preceded by some thoughts about the songs.
Vermin Lord’s three tracks on the split vividly display the shifting palette of sounds and styles that have already become the musical hallmark of this unusual project, with an overarching atmosphere that’s depressive and suggestive of occult rites in progress — rites that produce visitations by phantoms.
Vermin Lord leads off strongly with “Persecution of The Skeleton Cult”. Grim and sinister in its feeling, but hooky as hell and irresistibly head-moving, the song comes across as an amalgam of horror/doom and black metal, combining strummed echoing guitars, heavy heaving riffs, and poisonous tremolo raking, overlaid by Vermin Lord’s cracked goblin snarls.
The follow-on track, “Offering To The Eclipse”, indulges other aspects of its creator’s interests. Part gloomy gothic ballad (with clean vocals) and part mind-scarring assault (with more of those acid rasps), the music moves between slow reverberating notes that create a shimmering, mystical effect and bouts of guitar abrasion, between crystalline arpeggios and deep, grinding, destructive chords.
Vermin Lord ends his three-song offering with the well-named “Infernal Conjuring”, which draws together many of the elements of emphasis from the first two tracks. It again features changing vocal expressions (including somber spoken words this time), combining passages marked by an unsettling, ghostly ambience with hard-driving propulsive rhythms and a high soaring melody. The song gets stuck in the head, but you might feel the breath of a poltergeist on your neck while that’s happening.
Like Vermin Lord, Nihtwintre is a Seattle-based one-man project. Nihtwintre’s debut release arrived earlier this year in the form of a four-song EP named Lustrum Noctu.
The feeling of Nihtwintre’s opening track, “Mausoleum of Dead Stars”, sits somewhere between agony and exultation. In its opening, the high whine of the guitar generates a dismal melody that flows like a paean of bereavement over the metronomic pulse of the drums. Flesh-ripping shrieks enter the frame as the intensity of the music mounts, but as the song builds toward a searing desolation, it also includes a folk-like melody that seems like a whirling dance.
“Spell of Summoning” is urgent throughout, as if manifesting the throes of a delirium brought about by traumatic loss. A beguiling but stricken melody pulses and pushes through the song, reaching a frenzied crescendo of fire.
After the emotional immolation of “Spell of Summoning”, “Ethereal Voices” brings a reprieve… of sorts. True to its title, disembodied voices gasp and whisper in torment through the strains of an unearthly ambient melody that shimmers and shifts like mist in a moonlit forest. It’s a chilling experience that summons sensations of death, and visitations of the dead.
The split is available digitally and on cassette tape at these locations: