Wednesday 18 September 2013

Review: Skullflower / Mastery – 'Skullflower' / 'Mastery'

'Skullflower' / 'Mastery'

Cold Spring bring us a very interesting pairing on Skullflower / Mastery. Both halves leading tours through lysergic levels of hell. Or perhaps each their own alternate cosmos. The Skullflower tracks on this split release have a vastly monumental feel to them. The approach is centered very much around the guitars, which are low, slow and the distortion is distorted. Skullflower has played in many fields of sonic carnage, from power electronics to industrial, psychedelic to an idiosyncratic and twisted form of black metal.

'Wolf Age' would go down well with fans of doom metal. Over the central mighty riffs layers of guitars add harmonies and atmosphere, the result as symphonic as it is battle-worn. 'Red Crystal Serpent' has a martial feel to it, percussion and feedback flowing around a structure sketched out by a lone guitar. Layers of high tremolo picked guitar notes coupled with a subtle synth line combine to almost manifest electronic voice phenomena around the central ostinato on 'Black Sunshine', creating a sorrowful atmosphere.

And Mastery's lone track... Well, damn! 'Blood Electric' is a veritable rifferama with a necro sensibility delivered with a staggering guitar skill. Black metal rarely works when a shredder puts arpeggios all over it, but Mastery manages to make it seem primitive even while pulling off the impossible on the fret board. Don't let the mention of arpeggios cause anxiety, this is speed as texture. To find the closest equivalent to the evocative atonality of Mastery, one would have to look to 20th century classical. Riffs with how they charge in, twisting and contorting and leading to the next have something in common with the frenetic glitchiness of the most out there breakcore. This track in its snaking, shifting 17:40 long shape never lets up in ferocity, and hangs together for the entire hellish ride. The information sheet says the music of Mastery is improvised, which really makes the track that much more impressive.

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