Hell, Amarok bring hellacious amounts of doom, visions of madness on split release

Hell's portion of the split

Hell’s cover on the split

Surely you’ve heard someone talk about how they’re being tortured or are in living hell over something, be it their job, a life situation, or just something meaningless they’re blowing way out of proportion. That’s not to suggest some of those out there don’t have some real problems, though, and there are people whose music makes up my record collection that I do not doubt for a second have been there and maybe still are.

A split record that’s reaching us via vinyl from the mighty Pesanta Urfolk certainly falls into that category, that being the effort combining Salem, Ore., underground doom standard bearers Hell (has a name ever said it all better than this one?) and Chico, Calif., sludge demons Amarok. The music has been available before now on cassette via Vulture Print, but having this bastard on vinyl is very much welcome and should make any metal collection that much more tortuous. The bands make plenty of sense together, as you’ll be able to attest from hearing these songs, and it sounds like the embodiment of psychological and physical abuse.

We’ve covered Hell before (not to be confused with the other bands with this moniker including the U.K. NWOBHM revivalists), and they’ve ignited the doom world with three full-length maulers, titled I through III, that provide some of the most frightening and infernal sounds to come out of extreme metal’s horrible underbelly in a long time. You see the band name, you see their red-splashed artwork, and you kind of know what to expect once you take on the music. And they just bludgeon you over and over again. I think they’re one of the best doom bands in the world.

As for Amarok, they have yet to deliver a full document since their formation in 2010, though they released an EP the year they formed and now have contributions to three other split efforts, including this one with Hell. Like a band such as Velnias, their songs are kind of woven together over all of their releases, with each new tracks getting Roman numerals in front of them, indicating some sort of interconnected storyline or philosophical exchange. Their sound is nasty, stoner-friendly, and sludgy, and hopefully more people will be keen to them now with this split.

Hell offer up three tracks that stretch over 18:37, making them some of the shorter songs that band has done in some time, but since they’re sonically stitched together, they still feel like massive epics here to disrupt your life. They kick off with “Deonte,” a menacing, terrifying song that gives you a deep gulp of what makes this band so powerful. This thing is ferocious and devastating, with noise sweltering and threatening to overlap you. That bleeds into “Oblitus,” an instrumental cut that’s guttural and cement thick, with guitar feedback rising up and enhancing that sense of dread and terror that’s in your soul. That siren-like assault continues, as drums kick up and take a larger role, and noise gets smeared all over everything. Then it’s into their last track “Dolore,” nearly eight minutes of fury that’s thick, muddy, and hammering. There’s a sense of funeral doom sorrow that cuts through the center of this thing, somber melodies, strings that pierce the skin, and an eerie cold front that moves in toward the end and carries this home.

Amarok's version

Amarok’s cover

Amarok has but a single track, “V: Red Oak Wisdom,” but it’s a massive 20:43 killer that morphs and grows and subsides and rises up again and again over its running time. The song opens with slow-driving doom, gurgly growling that mixes with wild shrieks, and sprawling playing with a drubbing approach. These guys sound both channeled and full of direction yet just unhinged enough to give them the proper bloody edge. As the song progresses it eventually finds a sense of calm, with piano notes dripping in, and moody, solemn strings providing more texture to what’s already a dark piece. Of course the intensity kicks back up again, with anguish-filled wails and screams, devastating pounding from the rest of the band, and a sense you’re in a pit of danger from which you cannot escape. The final minutes are complete panic and obliteration, giving the track the proper smoke-filled feel but also leaving you wanting more from this band’s deranged supply of, well, hell.

As the best splits are wont to do, this release gives new listeners a great sense of what each band does really well and serves as a proper introduction into each’s war-torn world. For those who have been along for the ride with one or both, it’s a worthy addition to your catalog, one that’ll feel just right when you, too, feel like you’re in an everlasting vortex of personal torment and want to hear something that matches the intensity of your wailing and anxiety. It’s better than punching a brick wall until your hand’s bloody, that’s for sure.

For more on Hell, go here: http://loweryourhead.bandcamp.com/

For more on Amarok, go here: https://www.facebook.com/amarokdoom

To buy the album, go here: http://pesanta.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://f-consortium.com/pesanta/