Palace of Worms, Mastery create hellish blackness, total agony with split release

Late November and early December are total dead periods for new music. Everything is out there already, pretty much so that it can be snapped up for holidays gifts for those of us archaic fools who still exchange music over the holidays, and label folks get ready for the following year’s onslaught.

But that doesn’t mean the remainder of 2012 is totally devoid of meaning as far as new music goes, and we were caught off guard last week by a Twitter post from Flenser Records that contained a mysterious piece of art that looked like an album cover. The words that I could make out were Palace of Worms, the mysterious, Bay Area black metal project of one Balan, so immediately I reached out to see what was up since the Tweet seemed kind of urgent. It was. For good reason.

While balancing vinyl releases for the most recent albums from Bosse-de-Nage and Worm Ouroboros (both totally worth your time and money), turns out Flenser was planning a super big-surprise release of a split between Palace of Worms and Mastery, yet another one-man Bay Area band, this one featuring Ephemeral Domignostika, who also is active in Pale Chalice (their 2011 EP “Afflicting the Dichotomy of Trepid Creation” is highly underrated) and Pandiscordian Necrogenesis. I’m a big fan of all the bands listed, so this was a must-hear release for me, a great late-year surprise, and one that’ll make you hellishly happy if you, too, revel in the bleakest, harshest of black metal.

As far as splits go, this one of weirdly proportioned. Palace of Worms have four entries on this collection, while Mastery only offer up one eight-minute track, labeled a refined improvisation. It’s more like a slice for Mastery, but that’s certainly not a complaint. The Palace stuff is interesting and, for Balan, kind of basic considering the ambition he generally brings to the plate. But it works and it burrows into your soul, reaching back into the early years of the second wave of black metal and bringing it up to speed for 2012. It’s savage, lean, mean, and deadly.

“Disconsolate Flight (Death Carries Me)” is the first song we hear from Palace of Worms, taking on a more traditional path, a more straight-forward approach than some of Balan’s earlier work. That’s not a negative, really, as no matter what he’s tried under the Palace moniker, it’s worked. So it’s cool to hear this stripped-back version of Palace of Worms that goes right for the veins. “Alien Body, Alien Mind” is creaky, spacious, and even psychedelic in spots, though it blows up at the end and gets nasty. “Acheronian Pall” opens immersed in doom, and it maintains a slower pace, a slurry, sinister tone, and a deliberate agenda. Yet near the end, the song explodes, and Balan launches into an Iron Maiden-style gallop that kicks up dust and pulls you thrashing and screaming through the streets. Closer “Temple of Failure” runs a bit over seven minutes, and it’s draped in misery and blackness. It feels like an eerie, cold sweat-inducing nightmare sequence, a feverish hallucination, and its spaciness mixes right into its classic metal riffing and spoken sections that sound emanated from the basement of hell. It’s unsettling.

Mastery’s cut “Egregorian Synapse” is quite different. It ignites right into a relentless barrage that sounds like it’s going to speed off the rails almost immediately. I mean that in a good way, because one thing so many black metal artists lack is that ability to make you think they’re not in control of their emotions and could do or say anything at any time. The tempo and melody are completely dizzying and nausea-causing, and before you know it, your head is spinning. The creaky growls remind me a bit of WOLD, and the chaos rising from this one feels like a million points of penetrating lights dashing around the room, hellbent on driving you into a seizure. The sickening, blackened frenzy twists on and on until the punishment fades into the background and into space. It’s but one song, but it makes an impression quickly and makes insanity sound as appealing as possible.

This may be the last essential release of 2012, and if so, it’s a hell of a way to go out. Both of these projects are scary as fuck and leave you wanting to invest in night lights, and that’s what makes them so invigorating. This is black metal with a cancerous heart and soot black soul, and while the music might make you feel alive inside at times, it’s also a stark reminder of the dead world around us. I’d sit in a dark room, illuminated only by candle, and collect your inner turmoil with this music. No matter how foul you feel, you can’t come within an inch of Palace of Worms and Mastery’s disillusionment and rage.

For more on Palace of Worms, go here:

For more on Mastery, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

For more on the label, go here: