BEST OF 2013: Most devastating split, collaborative efforts

Each year, we get a nice collection of split and collaborative efforts from bands, and generally they’re pretty fun. Oh, welcome to the kickoff our of 2013 year in review, that’ll take you from today all the way until New Year’s Eve when we reveal our No. 1 album of the year. But before we get there, we want to look at some of the year’s better split releases and give them one more dash of praise.

Whether we’re talking your traditional split where you get a song or two from one band, and the same from another, or it’s a work where two or more bands collaborate together, these types of recordings give listeners a little taste of what each act has to offer or a unique setting where their styles blend together. There were some really good ones this year, more than I can remember in some time, so here are the ones that got the most work damaging my hearing.

Gathering cover

We’ll start with one we didn’t get a chance to review, that being the “Gathering” from Oak Pantheon and Amiensus, a two-track effort out on Tridoid Records. I’m a sucker for atmospheric, woodsy black metal, and both of these bands deliver that in major ways. But that’s not all these two bands can do, as each go beyond those borders to make for a sound more exciting and more inclusive of their tastes and influences. I haven’t had a chance to write about Amiensus ever before, and I’ll make a point to change that in the future, because their submission “Arise” is melodic, challenging, prog-influenced, and nuanced, with emotion and power to boot. There are folk moments, some classic metalcore moments (meaning not of this century) and just a lot to like from their track. As for Oak Pantheon, we already gushed about their 2012 effort “From a Whisper,” and their track “A Gathering” shows them growing even further melodically. Sure, the strains of classic, atmospheric black metal remain, but there are more prog, post-rock, and even classic rock influences (some of the fiery lead guitar playing boasts that) not only to get fired up for this song but for that they’ll offer up on album No. 2.

For more on Oak Pantheon, go here:

For more on Amiensus, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

For more on the label, go here:

cough cover

Way before Windhand delivered their devastating new album “Soma,” they made their Relapse debut on a crushing, doom-infested split with fellow Richmond, Va., maulers Cough called “Reflection of the Negative.” While both bands are in great form and deliver more than their share of good times, murky violence, and spooky sentiment, this is a real coming-out party for Windhand vocalist Dorthia Cottrell, who positively dominates and rules on her band’s two songs. She always was good, but this was her first real statement showing just how powerful a force she can be fronting Windhand and that she likely would something with whom to reckon going forward. As for Cough, they scar as always, create sounds set to maim, and hopefully were just warming up for their new long player. Really looking forward to that one.

For more on Windhand, go here:

For more on Cough, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

For more on the label, go here:

12 Jacket (Gatefold - One Pocket) [GDOB2-30CH-001]

Panopticon and Vestiges might not seem like the most likely alliance, but their split from this past spring was an excellent collision of both worlds that worked wonderfully. Panopticon’s atmospheric, rustic black metal always feels personal and emotional, and the band’s three tracks here certainly deliver that and more. The really fun surprise is a cover of Suicide Nation’s “Collapse & Die” that shows a different, gritter side of this project and works pretty well with the other band on this offering. Vestiges lean a little more hardcore and menacing with their sound, and their crushing contributions “VII” and “VIII” are continuation of stories they have been telling about the downfall of humankind over their own releases, beginning with “The Descent of Man.” Both bands are personal favorites of mine whose catalogs get plenty of play in my house, so bringing them both together was like a dream come true for this dork.

For more on Panopticon, go here:

For more on Vestiges, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

For more on the label, go here:

MamifferCircle cover

Collaborative efforts can be just as satisfying, and Mamiffer’s project alongside Circle (though the two working here no longer identify as members) made for one of the year’s most imaginative, creative collections, which should not be surprising considering the two bands at work here. “Enharmonic Intervals (For Paschen Organ)” sounds the name of a classical music entry, but really it’s these two forces capable of anything making spacious sounds together as one. The two bands holed up in an old stone Finnish church in Circle’s hometown, and all of the musicians involved achieved something liturgical, weirdly spiritual, and at times completely devastating, usually when Aaron Turner barks viciously in his trademark voice. Faith Coloccia’s beauty musically and vocally add delicate textures, while Jussi Lehtisalo and Mika Ratto’s willingness to make any strange noise and travel into any sounds, no matter how baffling, add the special touches on this sprawling, powerful collection.

For more on Mamiffer, go here:

For more on Circle, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

For more on the label, go here:

These are just a few of the great splits from this past year, and certainly this isn’t all. Other really great split efforts from 2013 include the grisly and doomy Coffins/Noothgrush alliance that came out on Southern Lord; one of the strangest, heaviest, and most horrific pairings that found The Botanist and his hammered dulcimer-led black and dark metal meeting up with the terrifying Palace of Worms on a release (The Flenser) that put together two of this era’s best one-man outfits; the spacy and wondrous “Sol,” a collection that offered a track each from Mare Cognitum and Spectral Lore, then put the two bands together to collaborate on the record’s final track, the instrumental “Red GIant.” I, Voidhanger released that one, and it’s a serious pathway to the stars that requires your undivided attention and rewards you for your efforts. All of these, like the ones detailed above, are worth your time and money and are some of the finest alliances of 2013.