The process of reviewing a split is informed by an intrinsic complexity, when compared to an album or EP proper. On one level, a split relies on both band’s individual abilities to deliver the goods. On another, however, a split is also dependent on the interaction between the bands, their capacity to communicate with the other in a shared environment to create a mutually beneficial experience for themselves & the audience. In an ideal situation, the two sides either serve to concretely reaffirm the other (such as this year’s Vastum/Spectral Voice EP), or to expand upon their counterpart by presenting a foil. A good example of the latter might be Windhand’s recent split with Satan’s Satyrs, or Iron Reagan’s work with Gatecreeper. In both cases, the sonic quality each band brings is distinct, but the entire package has an utterly unique quality, greater than the sum of its parts. This is the arena in which a split will tailspin or triumph. It is with visceral joy that Sleeping Village confirms: Coffin Rot & Molder work together with a grisly voracity.
Both bands contribute three tracks--two originals & a well-curated cover each. First up is the Rottin’ Coffin, whose demo EP released earlier this year has been re-appearing in my rotation with a respectable resilience. Putting the “Old Skool” in OSDM, these Oregonian underground plague merchants display an instant maturity. Living Cremation brings the rabidity, & the significantly lengthier Unmarked Shallow Grave contains distinct movements, a sure sign of sophistication in the death metal universe if e’er there was. Their cover of Hung, Drawn, and Quartered brings plenty of grit, maintaining an exfoliating intensity in the guitar department that rivals Cancer’s original--a feat in & of itself. Here, Hayden Johnson’s vocal quality is particularly forthright & (dare I say) repugnant. The strongest suit of an already disturbingly competent cover.
Purveyors of the B Side, Molder are no less grisly in their offerings. Indeed, their approach feels more primitive than their counterpart’s. While Coffin Rot is digging up bodies with a steam shovel, Molder resorts to using their ragged fingernails. The result is a welcome contrast, a lo-fi expression of underground death. Across the split as a whole, Condemned to the Catafalque is a standout track, due in large to the simplistic belfry-burning riff & Aaren Pantke’s straight-to-the-point distressed bark. The general approach is one of few excesses--this is death metal reduced to the essentials, exemplified especially in their version of (the aptly titled) Repulsive Death, by fellow Chicagoans Morgue.
Sonically, of course, there are distinctions between the two. Coffin Rot’s production is as ripe as, well, a rotting corpse, whereas Molder’s half sounds like it has been pulled from the locked jaws of a dusty cadaver. In other words, Side A sounds like compost, Side B sounds like a crypt. The latter has the appeal of a hand-me-down cassette, with strangled dynamics & a dry tonality. This, combined with the breakdown on Sulker, evokes a certain DIY punk aesthetic. With a tendency for rumbling monotony, neither crosses the threshold of professional production, but if this isn’t appealing to you as a listener, we here at the Sleeping Village suspect you might have stumbled into the wrong neighborhood.
The world of underground death metal pulls few punches, but all to often flounders in derivation. While the covers of classics are the primary commercial draw here, Coffin Rot & Molder add a whiff of fresh air into the formula by way of sheer energy. In some ways, it’s odd to associate such a violent form of metal with a feeling of jubilation, but fans of underground death will undoubtedly pick up what I’m layin’ down. Listening to this split is an absolute grin-inducing joy, made only more enjoyable by each band’s tendency to highlight a different aspect of the fetid death metal aesthetic. If we can expect this kind of music from both Coffin Rot & Molder in the future, we’re in for a treat. Standing before you are, undoubtedly, the genre’s forthcoming (lich) kings. Highly recommended!
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry