Seriously, though, that was my initial reaction on hearing this full album for the first time. I know it’s still very early in the year, and there will be plenty of high-quality releases yet to come (and I’ve even heard a few good ones already), so it’s ridiculous to make such a proclamation at this point. But I can assure you this record will definitely end up in my Top 16 list, probably very close to the top of that list. Because it’s that good.
Slaves BC / Grace & Thieves – Cursed Breath / Innocent Blood (Veritas Vinyl, 04 August 2014)
The split record is an interesting concept in the music industry. The vinyl EP or LP or cassette with (usually) one band on each side, or the more modern CD or digital release with tracks contributed by two (or occasionally more) bands — these frequently fall into a couple different categories. Sometimes bands will be such kindred spirits, sharing all the same influences and each representing a similar approach to their particular genre, that it seems completely natural for them to work together; in these cases the bands probably already have a huge overlap in their fan bases, but the split will surely be a treat for those people who already like both bands. On the other hand, many joint releases are the result of bands who are close friends — perhaps they live in the same city and play shows together all the time — but who actually have little else in common; the result here is that die-hard “completist” fans of either band will end up buying the record, but probably few of them will listen to the flip side more than once (if at all).
In most other cases, two bands are brought together by songs third party: perhaps they share management or PR representation, or belong to the same record label’s roster. These could be marketed to fans of each band or just people who may have been familiar with some of the other output from that label (or whatever); it becomes an efficient way for listeners to “test drive” bands, without having to take a chance investing in a full length from someone unfamiliar. Ideally, the person putting together the release will have done some homework (or just have good instincts) and pair up artists who are different enough to attract a wide range of listeners, yet share enough of a common bond for both sides to appeal (at least to some degree) to that whole audience.
And if you ask me (and technically, by clicking on this review and reading these words I wrote, you did ask me — at least implicitly), the Veritas Vinyl label has accomplished this successfully with their Cursed Breath / Innocent Blood 12″ which officially comes out today. This split brings together bands that employ two rather disparate styles of metal (one leaning in a blackened direction, the other sticking with a more old-school doom and traditional heavy metal sound), but they each combine their respective patois with a foundation heavily influenced by hardcore/noise and/or hardcore punk.