01. Sa voix transperce nos fronts
02. La main d’ Abel
03. Ô Déluge
04. Les passagers du vent
It seems that more and more bands these days are combining the extremities of black metal and avant garde music, a recipe built for obscurity and esotery. With that in mind, it makes sense how up-and-coming artists in the genre have discovered that combining resources in a collaborative split album would help them cover more ground. French blackened experimentalists Smohalla and British-Belgian connection Omega Centauri have done just that, creating a potent showcase of new talent in the realm of post-black metal in the split album Tellur — Epitome.
Since we last left them with their 2011 album Resillience, Smohalla have undergone a bit of personal growth that shifted them from weirded-out post-black metal in the vein of Ulver to a slightly more palatable and coherent monstrosity. No longer blatantly running head-long into labyrinthine avant garde compositions, the band have focused their flamboyant progressive mannerisms into songs with more structure and lasting appeal. Smoholla have refined their experimental ethos and themed vignette-style songwriting to epic results.
The band are more metallic than ever it seems, with predominately screamed vocals and technical guitar riffing often taking the spotlight over the band’s many interwoven layers of synth; for instance, the guitar parts for opener ‘Sa voix transperce nos fronts’ are as technically astounding as they are downright catchy. Of course, the band still has a knack for providing otherworldy sideshow attractions, as in the electro-centric ‘Ô Déluge,’ but overall, Tellur sees the band at the top of their game with four tracks that more effectively combine their irreverent and over-the-top musical style with more traditional extreme metal songwriting and exhibition, picking up a few hooks along the way without compromising artistic vision. To explain Tellur to those unfamiliar with the group, think of the title track to Devin Townsend Project‘s Deconstruction and its barrage of grandiose indulgence, but condensed to four minutes raised on Bathory and Mayhem.
Epitome, Omega Centauri’s contribution to the split, is expectedly different than the preceding half and is more transformative in regards to stylistic considerations, though a bit sluggish in execution. ‘Naissance‘ takes Deathspell Omega‘s sprawling blackened oppression and runs with it almost verbatim. As ‘Submission‘ rolls around, the band exhibits some of their own identity and takes a more overtly atmospheric approach to the Deathspell formula, ending the song in a spiraling whirlwind of pensive yet triumphant chord progressions. The metamorphosis takes a wild leap to its conclusion in ‘Desuetude,’ which features nothing more than a cycle of guitar melodies being played over a field recording of a thunderstorm. What follows is over eight minutes of silence and what is evidently two ‘bonus tracks’ (which are somewhat redundant these days, but that’s another argument for another day) featuring ambient field recordings from Omega Centauri and an ethereal instrumental piece from Smohalla.
Tellur — Epitome, despite having separate titles and album art per band, is a solid listen in both a full-length album context and as two distinct EPs from two clearly talented groups. This split represents a worldwide urge to push extreme metal further into new developments and captures a real spirit of creation. Results may vary though, as these two bands are worlds apart despite the like-mindedness; a bias towards or against either band can affect the perception of the record as a whole. Fans of Smohalla’s extravagance may find Omega Centauri to be too tame or inconsistent, where fans of Omega Centauri may find Smohalla to be too far gone into the ether for recovery. Then again, that’s the beauty of a split album, isn’t it? Enjoy both or pick a favorite, you can’t really go wrong either way.
Smohalla’s Tellur gets…
Omega Centauri’s Epitome gets…