Monday, July 6, 2015
…NORTHWINDS / MARBLE CHARIOT split
Criminally underrated and underexposed French progressive doom band Northwinds have teamed-up with up-and-coming fellow countrymen Marble Chariot for an impressive split album that plays to both bands respective strengths. For two and a half decades Northwinds have been crafting some of the most fantastical compositions in the metal scene by incorporating elements of folk, progressive rock, and doom into a uniquely singular style that sonically embodies strange lands and wistful dreamscapes. Marble Chariot, on the other hand, may not be quite as progressive or as expansive as their compatriots, but they make excellent companions on this split release with their downtrodden, mournful take on traditional doom.
The wait for Northwinds’ follow-up to 2012’s ‘Winter’ (review HERE) has been wrought with anticipation, especially since their forthcoming fifth album, ‘Eternal Winter,’ was conceived and recorded during the ‘Winter’ sessions. Though a release date has yet to be announced for ‘Eternal Winter’ the band has remained busy and their ‘Demo 1995’ is about to be released on vinyl and their split with Marble Chariot has yielded the excellent track “Witchcoven.” Flute and acoustic guitar—Northwinds staples—follow a brief, blustering wind that initially carries the listener to a desolate faraway land. A bell tolls and the lull eventually gives way to heavier, mid-tempo riffs that are supported with keyboards and sporadically accented with organ and piano. What really brings “Witchcoven” to life is the brilliant lead guitar playing that dominates the second half of the track. The playing is slow and fluid and the tone is melodic—one of the most sublime moments to be found in Northwinds’ discography.
Marble Chariot’s contribution, “Darkness Descends,” builds upon their debut EP, ‘The Burden Is So Heavy…,’ and continues the band’s explorations of heartrending, emotive doom. It’s a shame that it has taken Marble Chariot three years to follow their excellent debut, but the wait is well worth it. “Darkness Descends” is a dreary, crawling slab of melancholia. Marble Chariot’s rhythm section carry much of the burden and, similar to Northwinds’ side of the split, the lead guitar playing takes the track to the next level. As the bass and drums lock into a down-tempo stumble tortured wah-pedal lead guitar cuts a swath through the din. The vocals were great on ‘The Burden Is So Heavy…’ EP, but are even better here. Sebastien Fanton has a soaring, resonate quality to his vocals and with “Darkness Descends” he has further developed a commanding presence.
It goes without saying that a full-length from both bands is far overdue, but in lieu of new albums this split should briefly satiate initiates of either act. Two of France’s finest have released some of their strongest offerings on a perfectly complementary split album. 2015 has not produced many split albums thus far, but it would be hard to fathom that there will be any released quite on par with this one.
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