Vestiges are admittedly new to me, but then so are an increasing number of bands these days. They’ve been around a few years now and convey a ‘central narrative about the relationship between man and nature’ through their music. This release picks up where they left off from their split with Ghaust, with tracks ‘VII’ and ‘VIII’ following ‘nature’s reclamation of the earth and restoration of the balance for all life’. ‘VII’ is largely a build up of lonely ambient chords, with percussion building and the guttural vocals creeping up before exploding into life, while ‘VIII’ is a titanic track of its own, with forcefully heavy riffs, blastbeats aplenty yet plenty of more thoughtful and wonderfully constructed sections too.
The other half sees the return of one Austin Lunn, or A.Lundr, in his one-man masterwork Panopticon. Last year he truly pushed at the walls of black metal even further than it’s already gone in the last few years, when he melded his sound with bluegrass to create the stunning ‘Kentucky’, a discourse in his home states’ turbulent history and beautiful surroundings. Three tracks has he on this release, including a furious cover of Suicide Nation’s ‘Collapse & Die’, but it’s on his originality he excels again. Though not quite as thunderous or expansive as on ‘Kentucky’, the two originals exude Lunn’s skills as a multi-instrumentalist, be it the guitar he plays with that ridiculously sword-edged tone, or the kit which he rolls and fills with wild abandon. ‘A Letter’ is a highly barbed assault, emphasised with plenty of atmospherics and some defiant expletives, but its ‘Eulogy’ which stands out the most, from the break in the riff where Lunn screams for all his worth, to the majestic, mournful-esque riff that closes the track. Panopticon right now is in career-best form – I look forward to seeing if he can outdo himself.
As far as splits go, this is up there with the best of them. Generally these releases don’t get much recognition beyond hardcore fan worship but they’re just as enjoyable as individual full lengths, and when they’re being offered on a name-your-price scale, you’d have to be pretty ignorant if you’re a fan of this sort of thing to turn your nose up at it. So please stream it below and prepare to be amazed – I’ve spoken before of how Panopticon moved me emotionally on ‘Kentucky’ and while I don’t feel the crashing aftermath of such waves here, this is a golden age for these bands and indeed for black metal as a whole. This split is no different.