Written by: The Administrator
The wayward creation of this review is not reflective of the typical process 'round these parts. After (seemingly) completing the damn thing, our various devices capable of updating the website encountered a Series of Unfortunate Events, resulting, as ye may have noticed a few weeks back, in a marked lack of content. Long story short: the review in original form was largely consumed by the technology gods. However, the unexpected setback provided an opportunity to throw this split back into rotation, crank out a few more listens, and subsequently rebuild the review from the ground up. The opportunity for refinement was too much to pass up, and so here we are, fashionably late, clenching a fourth and final draft in white-knuckled grasp.
But you aren't here for the sob story or long and winding intro. Let's dive right in, shall we?
Upon encountering this split album by Scotland's Order of the Wolf and Brazil's Pessimista, I was tangibly excited...but not, notably, by the genre in question. Indeed, "melodic black metal" or "raw black metal" tags all-to-oft serve to push me away with a violent immediacy. I had a familiarity with Order of the Wolf, and have thoroughly (albeit unexpectedly) enjoyed his output in the past, but Pessimista rang no bells. This, simply put, is not the type of music that I seek out with any kind of regularity. So, then: prior to actually listening, the actual content lurking within wasn't particularly intriguing. Rather, the format itself was the hook.
Let me draw a line in the damn sand: splits are fuckin' awesome, and anyone who says different is A. an absolute bore and B. undoubtedly terrible at group projects. They practically breed variety by intrinsically avoiding the pitfall of many an album, aka the dreaded doldrums of uniformity. From a more practical standpoint, they provide a wholly unique opportunity for bands to introduce similar artists to a new audience that is predisposed to enjoy the aesthetic. When well-curated, they act as an arena in which bands complement each other's strengths and differences while still maintaining a cohesive aesthetic whole. Because they exist in a universe where collaboration is a constant factor, splits have a lot of potential to explore the liminal boundaries between distinct artists approaching indistinct ideas. Shared spaces live and die by the ability to the occupants to work together (or deliberately avoid working together, for that matter). It's an extra dimension to consider, both as a casual listener and a critic. Needless to say, I find split releases--regardless of genre--ridiculously exciting by nature, and this specimen quickly proved to be an exemplar of all the reasons why. Order of the Wolf and Pessimista work together inordinately well to present a cohesive package, and while I do have some very minor criticism of some tracks, I have only praise for the manner in which these two become, in a sense, a shared entity. This is what great splits do. This is a great split.
Order of the Wolf is firing on all pistons as always, delivering a pleasingly balanced blend of raw aggression and angst with a omnipresent-yet-delicate application of melody. As someone who finds little appeal in the purely abrasive texture of black metal, these persistent melodies layered throughout serve as the lushness I inevitably find refuge in--the greenery cracking through the concrete. "Moving Ever Closer Towards the Light" is a particularly strong example, with a crisp borderline NWOBHM hook running through the refrain. OoTW is a master of planting these moments of clarity and beauty in the (comparative) chaos, and hence each track grows its own distinct personality, particularly over the course of repeat listens. This contrasts quite nicely with the vocals, which are seldom discernible and almost always delivered in a wrenched and seemingly desperate tone. If I have one complaint here, it's that I wish the vocals themselves were a little louder in the mix. The buried aesthetic works, of course, but I occasionally find myself distracted by the act of straining to make them out clearly.
While the aforementioned "Moving Ever Closer Towards the Light" is probably my favorite OoTW track herein, "A Future of Promises, A History of Lies" has a notably exciting forward momentum. In a similar vein, opener "¡No Pasarán!" starts with a bang and never lets up, displaying more of that delightful "it's catchy but it doesn't seem like it should be" energy. All-too-oft I feel like the guitar is utilized for pure atmosphere in raw black metal, but here, it truly feels like an integral part of the aesthetic. In sum, three excellent tracks; quite possibly the best three tracks OoTW has presented thusfar.
This certainly isn't to discredit Pessimista, who also delivers a very solid showing. The three tracks on this half of the ol' split are a little longer, and tend to meander a little more than OoTW's contributions. It's a nice contrast. After the fury rained down prior, a little breathing room serves to amplify the overall listening experience. These tracks feel more expansive--perhaps more like a landscape than a portrait. My favorite track here, "Memórias póstumas," clocks in at 6 minutes, and is still the shortest song on Pessimista's half. There is a clear focus on the ambiance, with a sizable passage in the middle dedicated to chimes laid across a gentle choral build. The contrast with the overtly tremelo'd metal portions provides a constant ebb and flow that, in turn, contrasts quite nicely with the steady drive of OoTW tracks such as "¡No Pasarán!" In a similar sense, Pessimista doesn't feel as immediate--these are tracks that you need to spend time with, immerse yourself in, and mull over. I'll fully admit that, even though I'm quite familiar with the lengthy "Proferindo podridão," I could listen again and again and still find something fresh hiding in the backdrop. For this reason alone, it has taken a much longer time to enjoy this half of the split. Once you're in the fold, however, you're here to stay.
These two artists are quite different, both in their aesthetic and compositional approach. However, they seemingly serve to balance each other out in a fashion that doesn't result in dreaded overshadowing. I do prefer OoTW's vocals, but after a certain point it feels like comparing apples to oranges. They both serve their purpose well, and feel appropriate for the music at hand, be it the pedal-to-the-metal pace of OoTW or the more relaxed approach of Pessimista. Variety is the spice of life, and here, we have a release that exudes variety while still maintaining a solid sense of cohesion. If that isn't a win for both artists--and splits in general--I don't know what is.
Bottom line? This split comes highly recommended for fans of black metal and not-really fans of black metal alike. Pick up the respective halves from the respective artists at their respective bandcamps!
Order Of The Wolf / Pessimista - Split was released Aug. 7th, 2020
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!