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Saturday, May 21, 2022

Review: Ereshkigal / Xerión – Split 12″ LP

Label: Nigra Mors Productions

Date: October 31st, 2021

Let me start with some formal information. This is a split vinyl shared between the almost thirty years old Mexican quintet called Ereshkigal and a twenty years old Spanish (Galizian) duo Xerión. Both bands opted to press their most recent EP recordings on this LP. “Mortem” and “Lamento luminescente” respectively. Tying the knots is the appearance of Ereshkigal’s drummer who performed for Xerión as well, on this session. Plus the label responsible for this vinyl is owned by the Xerión gang. By the way, I’m not quite sure if Azermedoth Records also had a role in publishing this record, because it is owned by the very same drummer of Ereshkigal, who calls himself Lord Marganor.

Okay, so now you know all the technical details. It is also important to mention that I have already reviewed Xerión’s “Lamento luminescente” earlier this year, on this very same spot. Hence, I will use up their space in this review for some personal thoughts.

I’ll start by paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw. I would have a quote for you, but as you might assume, I have a book in Serbian language and I’m afraid the translation in the opposite direction might come across too different from the original. Anyway, in one of his texts he clearly states that a music critic can have no friends among musicians. I guess vice versa might apply as well. The conundrum being that a reviewer must be honest and, people being people, not all the musicians will appreciate the honesty. One way or another, writing about friends is a tricky business.

One needs to choose one’s words carefully. But it is beyond difficult to do so. Mr. Shaw, for instance, failed to do it. Repeatedly! And was quite okay with it. Proud of it, actually. Seeing how I’ve used his words as a mantra ever since I read them, I’ve found myself in my own personal hell. Again, repeatedly. Especially because I was a musician and a music enthusiast long before I even thought about writing anything, let alone music reviews. I have so many friends, close and otherwise, among bands, labels, promoters, distributors, zine makers… And I often get their promo materials.

I can’t even count how many Xerión reviews I’ve done. All of them quite positive, if memory serves me well. So, here’s the problem. Do you, dear reader, trust me? Can you trust me? I’m writing about a couple of very dear friends and their musical endeavors. Remember that! And I’m quite enthusiastic about each and every single one of them. Is it the case that Xerión is the best band that ever walked the Earth? Can they publish a bad release? Is my reasoning here objective? Then again, is my reasoning objective concerning any band and any release I write about?

Let me put your mind at ease. Hell no! There are things I like and things I don’t, period. And I call them as I hear them. I like the song (album / single / EP / split), good. I don’t like it, bad. That’s the whole of the law! Literally!

However, unlike the (in)famous Mr. Shaw, I do try to mellow out the words that I write. Should I, or shouldn’t I is a whole new question that I will not get into here.

Anyway, when it comes to Xerión, I genuinely like their music. I love the fact that you simply cannot predict where they are going next. What are they going to sound on the next release? Who knows!? There’s a black metal line running through all of them. It lets you know what band is playing, without room for any mistakes. But they are much more than a black metal band. Symphonic, neo-classical, pagan, ambient, folklore… So many aspects of their creation go marching through their music that it is impossible to predict what comes next.

Through it all, they do make some incredible music. Whether it’s my personal feelings towards them that guide my taste for their music or whatever other force is at play, I do love it. Perhaps the fact that they lack a wider general recognition is testifying to the point that there’s actually nothing special about them. Who knows… And, you know what? Who cares, anyway!? They don’t. Neither do I.

Concluding this elongated, and presumably boring, text, here’s a fact you cannot refute. My personal Xerión collection, at the moment of writing this, counts eleven CDs, fifteen tapes, one LP (not counting this one, as I still don’t have it in my hands) and two 7” vinyls. One of the 7” singles in question is the split with my own band. I’ve hosted them for their only (so far) show in Serbia. I’ve been their guest for the only two shows my band held in Galiza, Spain.

So, yes, we are friends, and very dear ones. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying them out. Give them a chance and if they suck, blame me.

Okay now, on the flip side of this review (and the LP at hand), I’m going to write about actual music. I will not even brag about my Ereshkigal collection which is not so poor either. Or the fact that my band appeared on a tribute to Satanic Warmaster double CD published by Azermedoth Records a few years back.

Ereshkigal is among the oldest black metal bands out of Mexico and it clearly shows in their music. They’ve started their journey basically when the second wave erupted out of Scandinavia. Picking up on it, they stuck with it until this very day. Thus, “Mortem”, their latest opus got its influences.

Naturally, when you think of Latin or South America, you would assume there is some serious musical savagery, rawness and filth. There’s that, of course, but in case of Ereshkigal it is toned down. Experience does play a part, for sure. The band learned how to channel its energy into a substantial force and not waste it into a sonic nightmare of buzz and noise. Therefore, you will get neatly produced material put together for audiophiles with black blood.

Rather than being an ode to the terrible recording possibilities of the 1990’s, “Mortem” focuses on the creative approach to the genre. Granted, these three tracks tend to slip down into minimalism on occasion. On the other hand, the Mexicans show they can work around the set platform when they want and need to. That’s when these tracks become interesting. Ereshkigal does use up the space fully which allows them to move about freely. While not leaving the borders of second wave black metal, of course. Creative guitars and solid rhythm arranges presented by the drumming sets the tone for the release.

Also attention worthy is the vocal work. It stands out from what you might consider typical for the bands coming from the same or similar geographical area. A strong and decisive scream leaves no room for questioning. Forgotten (the man’s pseudonym) once again proves he is the correct choice for a black metal band’s vocalist.

Last, but not least, are the cover artworks chosen by both bands for this release. These identical grey tones and red lettering on both sides give out a unison feel to the split. At the same time, the job done by Brais Remeseiro Portela on the cover and insert is simply brilliant! Amazing images that perfectly fit to the gloom of the Xerión side and the aggressive obscurity of Ereshkigal.

Those pieces of art perfectly sum up the entire package and makes it more than worthy of possession. Even if only as a framed piece on the wall of your dungeon. Or, much more likely, bedroom.