By Matt Hinch
This September Gilead Media and Mirror Universe will co-release a split LP featuring two of USBM’s best, Barghest from Baton Rouge, LA and Minneapolis, MN’s, False. Both bands are coming off successful 2011s, which saw Barghest release their debut self-titled full-length and an untitled EP from False. While these two bands are undoubtedly black metal, their styles – at least on this release – are complimentary enough to make this split seem natural, yet distinguishing enough that there would be no confusing the two.
The Barghest (a monstrous black dog of North English lore) side of the split features the band’s two longest tracks to date. The opening salvo of “Shifting Sands” sets the mood with a blistering attack no doubt meant to flay the skin from those caught in the storm. As expected from the song title, the pace shifts to a comparative crawl. You get the feeling the sand storm has ended and we are left to survey the aftermath with solemnity as it stretches across the barren wastes. The winds rise again but without the maliciousness felt earlier. Trepidation leads to another locust-swarm of devastation before the heart-breaking final minute ends with a note of hopelessness. “Inhuman Hatred” opens with a good 20 seconds of feedback before the triple-guitar-no-bass fury kicks the listener straight in the face. As opposed to “Shifting Sands”, this track is much more straightforward in its relentlessness. The fury continues unabated for the entirety of the eight-plus minutes. The wall of sound created by the swirling vortex of tremolo picking, blast-beaten drumming and low death-metal style growling fills the listener with a supernatural fear. One could almost imagine the spectral Barghest stalking its prey as it flees through the blackened pitch of an ancient forest. Not the sort of imagery you’d expect coming from the swamps of Louisiana.
Although the False side of the split is comprised of only one track, that track is longer than both Barghest tracks combined. While not nearly as oppressive as Barghest, “Heavy As A Church Tower” is no less atmospheric. The band employs a full range of instruments including some very eerie keys/synths that fall right in line with the architectural base of the track, yet remain understated and don’t overpower the rest of the band. The church tower is really only heavy if it falls. So when False do lay it all on the line and break into their own scathing cacophony of black metal speed picking it feels like that tower is coming down all around you. But more often than not False rely on atmosphere to envelope the listener. Whether blasting or moody, there is always a spectral (there’s that word again) presence lurking in the background. With its varied movements, plentiful atmosphere and dramatic mood, “Heavy As A Church Tower” unfolds as if it were a tragic opera. However, your average opera fan would likely be taken quite aback by the howling shrieks narrating here. With this track, False continue to add to the irony of their name. As with their debut EP, False are anything but.
Both Barghest and False may not yet be household names in underground US Black Metal but as the solid releases pile up, that won’t be the case for long. There is no reason these bands should not be regarded with the same respect as the bigger names in USBM such as Krallice, Leviathan, etc. That may be a tall order but this writer feels Barghest and False are more than capable of filling it.
September 18th has been set as the street date for the 180 gram black vinyl. With the pressing limited to 800 copies and no plans for compact disc, you don’t want to sleep on this. Until then, you can stream the Barghest side at Gilead Media’s bandcamp page and the False side at Decibel Magazine.