With some delay, but this split is way too interesting not to pay attention to…
Intercontinental Death Conspiracies is a split in between two bands that did release some remarkably marvellous stuff recently. There was last year’s Cyclopean Thunderbolt by UK-based Abduction (clearly written in solitude and isolation), yet especially their masterpiece All Pain As Penance from 2019 (link for my review: see below) is something I can’t get enough of. The other act involved is Nocturnal Prayer from Canada, and their 2020 full length compilation Advance On Weakened Foes also showed a mighty and majestic project not to ignore (also reviewed by undersigned – see below).
Now both of them have joined forces, once again under the banner of Inferna Profundus Records, a very fine Black Metal oriented label from Lithuanian soil. That collaboration is aptly called Intercontinental Death Conspiracies, and gets released on vinyl. There are two versions, i.e. one on clear vinyl and one on regular black, including an A2-sized poster and protected by a plastic outer-sleeve. It comes with great artwork, somewhat Mesopotamian or Sumerian, created by Osman ‘Ainul Iblis’ Ramadanovič, known from bands or projects like Cave Ritual or Nigrum Ignis Circuli, and who did some visual artwork for the likes of e.g. Funeral Fullmoon, Death Vomit, Vampirska, Wampyric Rites or Folteraar.
FYI: in case of interest in both acts’ history / biography / discography, I’d like to refer to one of the reviews I wrote before. Right now I am ay too lazy to repeat all that stuff, haha…
Intercontinental Death Conspiracies starts off with four hymns by Abduction, the most productive solo-outfit of Phil ‘A|V’ Illsley. It starts with Mass Extinction Salvation, which opens with a dark keyboard introduction, strongly inspired by obscure Dark Ambient / Drone Music. However, after about five minutes, Abduction move over to a morbid, militant and intolerant angle within the sonic spectra of mankind. An overpowering whirlwind of thunderous drums, energetic riffs, malignant growls and bleak riffs reconstruct normality, turning it into malicious chapters of hatred and disgust. Because of the full and massive sound, this effort works almost suffocative, leaving no room to breathe safely. The whole has a morbid, ominous sound, yet somehow there is a subtle touch of epic elegance as well. And when some hypnotic leads join at about half of the track, a magnificence of glorious and victorious pride overrules all other emotions. But the quest did not end here. Suddenly, everything falls back into an abyssal doom. A slow passage, even though quite short, overwhelms, covering the whole into a gloomy passage. Pay attention to the fine bass lines and martial percussion, my dear. Yet soon the powerful energy reappears, pushing and hammering, with a blasting eruption towards the end. Mass extinction as salvation, it might be the one and only cure… At least I do love the sounds of it…
Astral Projection sort of continues that untrodden part, even though it comes with an atmosphere much more brutal and uncompromising. This piece has a prominent epic attitude, translated via several guitar leads or the martial percussion-work during the slower intermezzo half of the track. Cremation Sickness, then again, comes with something rather introspective, almost ‘modest’, even though the drum patterns keep on roaring. Atrabilious hints of Doom and Occult / Ritual Black Metal penetrate the impenetrable obscurity that characterises this saturnine piece. And In Ceaseless Night, to end with, is probably the most hypnotising Abduction piece ever. That intro, waw, so mesmerizing and intoxicating… Yet the whole composition has that flavour of dreamlike grandeur, caused by the dissonant melodies and riffs, those captivating leads, that rumbling rhythm section, those deep screams, and the extremely well-executed breaks and tempo-changes. Lingering riffage and sluggish melodies interact organically with sudden convulsions, fierce soloing and expeditious outbursts.
The production is not bad, but I prefer a slightly increased result, to be honest. Okay, there is nothing wrong with the mix, for all strings, drums / percussions, voices and synths are clearly audible. Yet less ‘noise’ would lift it all up. But then again, that isn’t but a minor detail, for the result is mind-blowing for sure! Once again, Abduction do convince (me) with their magisterial, miscellaneous majesty – cosmic nihilism with dimensionless passion!
What Nocturnal Prayer bring is rather ‘traditional’, or ‘orthodox’, if you want to, deeply inspired by the origins of the (Nordic) scene. The three tracks on this split stand for highly melodious yet somehow primal and archaic Black Metal. Opener Leading The Tumbrels Of Affliction could be composed three decades ago during Midwinter in the Far North, abandoned by light and life. It’s melodious, with epic intentions (references to the Scandinavian Pagan / Viking trend are not that far away at all), quite some diversification in tempo and structure, and a fine-balanced interaction of lead and rhythm instrumentation. The techniques of play are well-executed, without fading away in artificial progression, yet with a focus on the balance in between intensity and melody. That equilibrium sounds even stronger in Drink The Kindled Flask Of Longevity, a dynamic assault with thunderous percussion, necrotic buzz-sawing strings and the characteristic thrashing throat of the band’s chanteur. Towards the end of this track, one can also enjoy a semi-anthemic choir-singing thing, ha, expressing victory and intransigence. The third and last track, Solar Sanctums Raped By Calamity, is the most oppressing and abstruse one out of three, and a magnum opus when talking about timeless old styled Black Metal. Fast excerpts interact with slower fragments, traditional melodies (oh, what a grandiose tremolo leads!) go hand in hand with a forceful rhythm section (thundering drums and devastating cymbals, supportive rhythm guitars and truly fine-tuned basses), and the stubborn echoing (and varying) vocals drench the whole in a mud so foul, so sick. Besides, the discordant strings towards the end, well, WTF – what a mind-f*ckin’ grandeur!
The sound on Nocturnal Prayer’s half of the LP is very rough, somewhat under-produced and chaotic. Okay, Black Metal, especially this kind, searches for that primitive approach, but it sort of sounds like being recorded during a rehearsal session in a moisty dungeon or a rusty container. As a honest reviewer, I need to mention this. Then again, I do not care that much about the inferior sound quality. It is a pity up to a certain level, and a more ‘professional’ recording could please me even more convincingly, yet then again, it’s both the song-writing and performance in the first place that counts. And these two are top-notch.
Conclusion: recommended for purist and adepts of the old-styled supremacy. Forget about modernistic Spielerei, ignore the somewhat inferior sound quality, but focus on the elegance of what ‘true’ Black Metal must sound like: raw, chaotic, uncompromising, intolerant and devoted to grimness and bleakness. Intercontinental Death Conspiracies does not reinvent the scene, but defines the core of it!