The Rickety Old Shack

Naastrand / Darkenhöld — split

Originally released in the last quarter of 2009, this split release recently saw re-issue via Bandcamp, and gives black metal fans another crack at hearing some of France's contributions to the genre. Naastrand disbanded 2 years after this split release, with only the tracks on this effort and a 4-song demo titled Funeral Moon to their name. Darkenhöld has since gone on to release 4 full-length albums and they remain active to this day.

Despite being comprised of two separate projects, both fit well together; Naastrand offers a more melodic take on the low-fi, old school black metal template, and Darkenhöld hew closer to Stormblåst-era Dimmu Borgir. While not officially listed as demo tracks, everything on this split release has a rough, low-budget production quality. The performances are all good, and black metal is a genre that eschews audio fidelity to varying degrees — no harm, no foul here.

The album contains 4 new tracks from Naastrand, and opens with "Frost Night," a 6-minute mid-tempo affair that sets the tone for the rest of the project's offerings. This is not very "kvlt," as the traditional black metal elements — mainly the wretched vocals — are mixed with more melodic riffing and even the odd synth. It's unfortunate that this band never released more material; each track Naastrand contributed to this split release is absolutely album-quality. Each track seems to get better and better, climaxing with "Haunted Creek," the final Naastrand offering, in all its epic riffing glory.

Darkenhöld contributed a pair of demos from their 2010 album A Passage To The Towers... and two cover songs so obscure they may as well be originals as far as I'm concerned. (I have never heard of Wallachia or Mephistopheles.) The demos don't sound much different from their full-length counterparts, though the production on the drums is quite thin. Each track, the covers included, feature the sort of mixture of blackened melodic metal I first began gravitating towards in the early aughts. I've already immersed myself in the band's back catalogue — which I highly recommend — but the demos and covers are exactly the sort of thing a completist like me enjoys.

For a sampler of two similar acts, this split release was perfectly executed. The only downside is that Naastrand never ended up recording anything else, to my knowledge, so I got introduced to a great act with little else to their name. I've enjoyed Darkenhöld since stumbling upon their Castellum album approximately a year ago, and I am glad they re-issued this split effort so it can be experienced by those who missed the limited physical release.

Summary

A densely packed split release featuring two complementary bands dishing out some solidly melodic black metal. Audio quality is not the best, but these tracks weren't recording on an answering machine either. As a fan of Darkenhöld's other work, these demos and covers were a nice find, and Naastrand's contributions leave me wishing they had been more prolific during their brief existence.

Album Information

Release date: October 25th, 2009
Record label: Independant

Darkenhöld
Cervantes — vocals
Aldebaran — guitars, bass, keyboards, vocals
Aboth — drums, percussion, keyboards

Naastrand
Myst — vocals
Likfrost — guitar
Wyrd — guitar, keyboard
Svartand — bass
Skhol — drums

Listen @ Bandcamp

Track Listing

  1. Naastrand - Frost Night
  2. Naastrand - Leviathan's Blow
  3. Naastrand - The Return Of The Damned Shades
  4. Naastrand - Haunted Creek
  5. Darkenhöld - Citadel of Obsidian Slumber (DEMO)
  6. Darkenhöld - Cleaving The Etereal Waves (DEMO)
  7. Darkenhöld - Curse Of Poenari (Wallachia Cover)
  8. Darkenhöld - Cosmos (Mephistopheles Cover)

—by Derek

Published: September 5th, 2017