Cruz del Sur has established a solid reputation in power/epic doom circles, with several records from the likes of Argus, Atlantean Kodex, Slough Feg and While Heaven Wept under their belts. So when they put out a split between a couple bands I’ve never heard of, from Italy and Finland, respectively, I’ll at least give it a listen based on the label’s reputation. And some of these tracks are definitely epic—The Wandering Midget’s lone contribution lasts nearly 19 minutes!
But first, we’ve got four songs from Italian outfit Hands of Orlac. Right from the first flute notes of “Curse of the Human Skull,” this band has got me thinking Blood Ceremony, and when the vocals finally come in, a couple minutes later, they sound an awful lot like Alia O’Brien. But nowhere in BC’s discography will you find a 14-minute tune—they definitely drag it out a bit longer than we’re accustomed to from our local occult leaders. We also get a bit of that Italian horror-soundtrack vibe, à la Paul Chain or Goblin here. It takes a lot to hold my attention over 14 minutes, but this song mostly succeeds. I think I’d still rather listen to “Hymn to Pan,” though…
The next three songs are much shorter, clocking in collectively around nine minutes. “Per Aspera” is but a one-minute, 15-second xylophone interlude, leading into “From Beyond the Stars,” a brisk, six-minute jaunt. This one actually throws a few chugging, faster-paced riffs into the mix, alongside some pretty decent doomy breakdowns. But they definitely can’t shake the fact that they sound an awful lot like Blood Ceremony, and do not compare favourably to the latter’s legendary debut. (Then again, not many of these “female-fronted occult-doom” outfits do…)
Meanwhile, if there’s one band I’d compare The Wandering Midget to, it’s fellow Finns Reverend Bizzare… although they also remind me of Atlantean Kodex at its slowest. They’ve got the same gloomy sheen, the same downtrodden pace and tempo—the same propensity for lengthy tracks that test your patience, if the 18-minute, 48-second “Where We March the Vultures Follow” is any indication. There is a welcome change of pace just shy of the 12-minute mark, although it lasts less than two minutes before we’re back to the slow ‘n heavy.
Both bands do a decent job on this split, but why listen to a half-decent imitation when you can just crank Crush the Insects or Living with the Ancients?
Releases Sep 8, 2017.