Arkona/Illness – Split (Godz ov War Productions)Wednesday, 17th September 2014
Two bands, two songs, twelve minutes of epic, obscure, raw and all around terrific black metal. Sound good? I think so. Don’t underestimate the length because it’s like a black hole that’ll send you spinning. Though this EP split is ridiculously short, it’s hard to stop listening to. Arkona and Illness present Polish pagan black metal at equal levels of excellence.
Both songs are very well-balanced, full-bodied and matchless pieces of work. I’ve heard hour-long black metal albums that don’t have the same distinctive quality as this. Arkona’s “Klucz do Istnienia” takes side A and starts the album off with a bitter breeze and birds tweeting, any more than the twenty-two seconds of that would be pushing it. Thankfully they take an immediate turn pummeling into a thrashy blackened path and stay on that track for the remaining five minutes, concluding with a rustic outro that sounds something like rusted chains grinding together.
Illness takes side B but that doesn’t put them below Arkona, if anything their side is even more charming. The creeping vibrato from the beginning of Illness’s “Zaraza” is a forewarning of something sick, something scary and above all something awesome. It is a black metal trip into a realm sulking with a dark and sinister temper. The best part is how the intruments consistently but gradually simmer down to a hush, then an eerie keyboard riff steps in and Gulnar’s wickedly snarling voice luridly echoes in your ears and dismisses by a stream of unfathomable moaning. There’s something strangely addictive and contagious about “Zaraza.” In less than seven minutes, Illness spread the plague that we call black metal.
When looking for a haunting black metal fixture upon a muddled muse of music, nothing more than a thirteen minute/two-song split is needed if it is good material. It’s true, quality always comes before quantity. If it’s too short, which it is, then just listen to it a few times over to become satiated by it. Arkona and Illness concocted one of the shortest splits we’ve seen but also one of the best, simple as that.