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Label: Zwaertgevegt

Date: April 16th, 2024

It’s about time for me to check what’s new among the darkest subjects of his majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. The first place where to look, of course, is the home of Dutch black metal, Zwaertgevegt. Starting this new batch of releases, two debutants on a single piece of vinyl. Intriguingly though, Zieldoder part of this split is also published on tape, by the same label, but Magistraal’s EP remains only in digital format and pressed on this vinyl. Who knows, perhaps it will be out on tape too, somewhere down the line.

Whatever the case may be, it is of lesser importance than the substance of which this split is crafted. Starting with the soul killers on side A, Zieldoder is a nondescript trio with four tracks written in English. I haven’t the privilege of reading the lyrics in the promotional package, but the song titles are fairly descriptive and you can get the point. Even the most curious title, “The World (a Beautiful Place)”, is soon unlocked by a relatively audible and understandable vocal work. Though I suspect Louis Armstrong had a hand in the inspiration for the song, naturally, it summons a whole other kind of feeling.

Such is the whole of the release, as well. Zieldoder utilizes the old Scandinavian school of black metal with ever-so-slight input from the mainland Europe, bands such as Mgła or Groza. However, the band’s melodic touches keep firmly on the traditional ground. Their music is not all that concentrated on the cold sores, but instead it brings about the weight of the inner paranoia which encompasses the listener. Therein should we seek for the essence of Zieldoder’s stylized black art.

Again, there should be no mistake, the band is nowhere near any avantgarde experimentation. They are as basic as they can be, keeping in mind that the quest for individual expression is an ongoing battle with Zieldoder being on the right track. For now, you can consider them followers of Dark Funeral, Watain and, on the more atmospheric side, mentioned Mgła or way up north Kampfar (without the folklore motifs) or early Ulver. There can, obviously, be a ton more names dropping, but let’s stick with these for now. Within the combination of those elements lays the answer to the Zieldoder key.

Flipping the vinyl is a somewhat easier to present duo, under the moniker of Magistraal. In Dutch this time, meaning that no lyrics sheet could help me here. However, the pseudonyms in use here are Fëanor and Shelob, which can only get me to assume one thing. Still, translating the song titles, there is no clear reference to Mr. Tolkien, so I cannot be sure.

Regarding the music here, we are again dealing with primal black metal, yet different in style to their counterpart. Primarily, Magistraal uses keyboards to emphasize the bone-chilling atmosphere. The atmosphere in question, relies much more on the coldness powered by the sharp riffing and embellished with the fairly expressive vocals. Starting from the production work, you may notice the shift in directions between the two bands and the focus being elsewhere with Magistraal.

Namely, they are looking for a rawer foundation to their sound. Sure enough, they’ve enhanced it with a nice lead guitar and the mentioned keyboards. Plus, there’s a notable presence of a bass guitar which dabbles in the background but still makes more than a decent impact, as rarely found in this type of black metal. As I wrote above, the vocals supply emotional backbone, particularly in eleven minutes long “Mijn brandend licht”. There could’ve been a bit more variation in the drumming department, again, in the eleven minutes long epos which loses a bit without the proper dynamic.

In any case, Magistraal delivers enjoyable twenty or so minutes of black metal to the table. Much like Zieldoder on the other side of the vinyl. One needs not seek for groundbreaking stuff on this split. Nor was it the idea of these bands to act like renovators of a genre. Honest and imaginative enough, both offer black metal that will appeal to the fans of the genre wherever their individual preferences may lay. It’s not the material you will go back to very often, but whenever it falls under the needle, it won’t be a miss.

 

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