Suicidal black metal iconoclasm by way of stumbling obstinancy and an adherence to individualistic ritual, the hollow spectre of feeling permeating. United by Ars Magna Recordings, Trist and Lonesummer are two black metal artists that communicate an approximation of the same ideal and aesthetic through vastly different means of confrontation. The focus here is emptiness, meaninglessness, regret, anguish, depression, the mark of failure-in short, negative fucking emotions filtered through the raw and blown out framework of depressive black metal (i could go further out and subcategorize this more, but there's no point-Trist defines this style for me, and Lonesummer grasp the yearn and hyper-devastation that the sound demands to be truly effective.) The resulting music on this split shapes that negativity into fractures of grey and bleak, reflecting the tortured and obscure photography of Alison Scarpulla that adorns the cover. This is a journey inward that ends in immolation, in a total rejection of the self that carves identity and actuality to shreds, leaving only the nightmare of memory and the bitter ache of nostalgia as reminders of time gone past.
Trist's return to the field ends a near four year silence aside from the instrumental self-released demo "Ve Snech Nekrvacim." The two massive tracks on that recording hinted at both a vague new direction (the almost ambient reconstruction of black metal by way of brutal repetition and deeply textured sonics) and a reinforcement of Trist's original ideal (the depiction of crippling emotion and anxiety and the communication of those same feelings in a physical way); here the two are fused seamlessly into something stronger and more defined, increasing the music's efficacy and allowing the power of the feelings involved to wash over the listener as an ocean. "Vabeni Pokojne Tmy" is twenty minutes of monotonous, blurring guitar backed by the standard simplistic, numbing drums Trist has employed so well in the past. The track is a heavy cloud of strangling atmospherics, the mist of sadness spreading into expanse, the tendrils of recollection thrown up against the reality of the actual. Trist's world is one where there the only option for escape is suicide; the weight of life and the tedium of existence stretches into forever, leaving shadows and want. The extremity of Trist's approach is complicated this time out by the buried vocals, screaming from underneath a muddy pall of distortion and echo. The muted cries become just another textural element in a composition already packed with them, resulting in a greater feeling of distance than Trist has achieved in the past. This removal serves the band's aesthetic well; if the music is representational of the purity of feeling and the voice the human element to the suffering, this music demonstrates the overwhelming nature of emotion and how easy it is to become lost in it, in yourself. The reflection Trist offers is one skewed and obfuscated, the mirror warped to the point where you don't know who you're looking at anymore. The displacement becomes another thorn of sorrow, stabbing into weary flesh. The aura of exhaustion Trist summons up across the span of "Vabeni Pokojne Tmy" is frightening, and like all music from the band, harrowingly intense. I know what it's like to feel this way; that recollection gives Trist's work a deep personal resonance for me.
Lonesummer's side of the split, while no less intense, takes a near opposite approach to black metal aestheticism. Turning in five bursts of pained emotional shrapnel in just under fifteen minutes, Lonesummer incorporate some of the passion and melodic severity found in early '00's screamo and mould it to a distinctly black metal template, creating a sound that references both the extreme end of depressive black metal (the vocal performances are eerily reminiscent of those found on Silencer's "Death Pierce Me") and the sort of veering-towards-collapse ferocity of Orchid. Lonesummer's work is black metal by hallucinogenic, hazy association, challenging preconceived notions of the genre's limitations while at the same time working within its confines to reconstruct its most obvious tendencies. Like Trist, Lonesummer traffic in the overwhelming pain of negative emotions and the often unbearable weight of regret and memory; their off the rails approach to introspection carries a violence and wild-eyed terror that threatens more outwardly than inward (listening to Trist i imagine dark, empty rooms and flickering candlight illuminating razor blades and splashes of blood, while listening to Lonesummer i imagine gigantic empty landscapes and a feeling of paralyzing fear, loss, and claustrophobia.) Lonesummer makes me believe it with this record. The passion and extremity are there, and it's completely upfront. Even the few moments of respite that betray their more "shoegaze" leanings-the delicately strummed clean guitars and hyper melodic screaming guitar lines-have a feeling of menace to them, weighed down with sadness. This is the best material i've heard from this unit; absent is any trace of the "experimentalism" that defined their early work along with any flirtation with pure noise. This simply transcends what they've accomplished previous.
Ars Magna Recordings has done a wonderful job on this beautifully conceived split, from the simple pairing of artists to the austere lifelessness and fragility of the striking layout and artwork. Everything makes sense. I expect nothing less from a label that has so vividly defined the personal nature of black metal for me, and i'm hard pressed to think of a label discography that reaches so deeply into the pale of depression without relying on contrivances and cliches. This is certainly music for suicide orchestration, but it also serves as a reminder of art's strength in times of personal adversity, and how the creation of something real and meaningful can impact both the lives of its creators and the lives of those affected by and receptive to it. I'm glad i'm one of them.