Body Void / Keeper – Split (Tridroid Records [cassette] / Roman Numeral Records [vinyl], 15 January 2020)
Keeper / Sea Bastard – Split (Medusa Crush Recordings [N.A.] / Dry Cough Records [U.K.], 03 February 2015)
Hello there! Today we’re going to take a look at a split record that’s been generating a little bit of buzz since it came out last month, but not nearly as much as it should — considering the caliber of the two bands who released it (Californians Body Void and Keeper).
The first of those is surely familiar to even occasional readers of this website, as we’ve discussed their work multiple times before — and they’ve managed to land on our Top ## of 20## lists each of the past three years.
But I realize at this point that we have never mentioned Keeper previously, which is really a shame because they were involved with another fantastic split LP that came out about five years ago, along with Brightonian band Sea Bastard. Somehow we just never got around to covering it, so to rectify that error, let’s revisit that one today as well. So you can have a little “bonus review” as a treat.
If you recall, the last time we heard from Body Void I brought up comparisons with Primitive Man and Fister — and their side of this new split (a single fourteen-minute track “Androgyne”) continues pushing that obscenely heavy extreme doom envelope even further.
The track is almost exclusively composed of atonal thudding and bashing of the drums and guitars in unison, underneath vocals that sound like the screech of someone possessed by demons who all happen to be gurgling mouthfuls of boiling blood. Filling in gaps between the slow grind of pulvarizing riffs are a plethora of feedback squeals. Writing about this type of music is fun: it would be completely unsurprising to see this band make a fourth consecutive appearance on my year-end list, and yet every word I’ve used here could have been repeated verbatim in a negative review as explanation for why someone absolutely hated this song.
The pair of tracks contributed by Keeper are entrenched within fundamentally the same genre as their co-conspirators, with similarly sickeningly harsh vocals (two different parts that sometimes compete with each other, Graves at Sea style), and comparably creeping tempos. But when contrasting the two bands’ output, these songs seem almost melodic.
That is, in “Trial & Error” (10+ minutes), the riffs consist of mostly discernible notes and chords, minor or diminished though they may be, making it at least some degree more musical or euphonic than the Body Void track. The same could be said for “Twenty” (7+ minutes), although it eschews riffs altogether, instead setting the wretched vocals against a swinging pendulum of eerie drone tones — reminiscent of the background parts during various points in Holst‘s “Saturn,” an extremely underrated piece that’s every bit as heavy as the more well-known “Mars.”
Of course, no one will ever mistake Keeper‘s output for actually being harmonious or melodic. Turning the calendar back to 2015, they also produced a fourteen-minute track (“777”) as half of a split LP, which also features plenty of ascerbic dual vocals and abrasively rhythmic riffing. Like their newer songs, there are some elements of musicality to these guitar parts, but like the new Body Void they are mostly pounded out in unison with the percussion — so deeply and heavily that one’s eardrums feel like they are shuddering violently during much of the listening experience.
On the other side, Brits Sea Bastard offer up “Astral Rebirth” which clocks in at a whopping twenty-one minutes (give or take). As excruciatingly slow as the rest of the material covered thus far, this track differs from the other bands’ in that the vocals are in the form of a groaned roar, bellowed out from some subterranean depth (at least throughout the first half of the song). If riffs this heavy and slow over such a lengthy span were not already an exercise in marathon-like endurance, the whole song begins decelerating to even more of a crawl several minutes from the end, ultimately succumbing to a series of prolonged bouts of feedback and noise.
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