By: Espi Kvlt
Awenden/Feminazgul – Split
Black Metal from Olympia, Washington and Asheville, North Carolina
Released on May 7, 2021
Via Tridroid Records
I have been eagerly awaiting this split, so I immediately rushed to listen to it when the review copy appeared in my e-mail. Both Awenden and Feminazgul are two of my favorite black metal bands and having both of them collaborate on a single album is something I didn’t know I needed but now is the most obvious thing in the world. Awenden, an anarchist black metal band, joins forces with Feminazgul, another anarchist black metal band, join forces to create an album that is as elegant and beautiful as it is heavy and powerful.
The split opens with Awenden’s massive epic, “Sam Slater Lighting Candles.” It draws you in with ambient notes that sound like crashing waves and then a gentle acoustic guitar settles you down beside a campfire to hear the story as though it were being told to you by a bard in a tavern. The strings begin to build as a chorus starts singing in the background, and then, the ambience is replaced by heavy guitars and the loud sound of a drum’s cymbal crashing over and over again. This leads us to the heart of the song, where not only do Awenden’s classic black metal vocals show up, but are layered over lovely clean singing, reminding me of a Lord of the Rings battle scene that the bard from the beginning of the sound has introduced us to and is narrating. The song continues in this fashion for about nine minutes, and then it lets up to give us a chance to breathe with more ambient sounds, more like the movements in an orchestral piece than a single song. The movement then returns to the thundering heaviness of black metal vocals over loud instrumentation before fading out. This song could have been an album all on its own, but luckily, it doesn’t stop there.
Feminazgul have provided us with two tracks on this album, equaling in total to just slightly less than Awenden’s side of the record, which brings it in total to a wonderful hour of enchanting black metal. We begin with “call out her name when you’re lost,” which opens with more ambient sound, this time of a forest where a piano is being played over the chirping of birds. In the context of the whole album, it felt like I had just witnessed a battle and was now seeing the aftermath. The somber piano playing reminding me of death, but in a lovely way. We are then greeted to another choir of clean singing, though this one reminded me more of an intense, emotional movie scene than a bard in a cozy tavern. After the harrowing choir finishes, much like the previous track, it then switches over to the more intense part of the song. The instrumentation going on in this track is wild, chaotic, and not for the faint of heart. The vocals are incredibly harsh and demonic. When the ambient parts of the song return, you feel relief, even though they continued to make me feel sorrow, as well. But not because the chaotic parts of the song aren’t good, but because it feels like the woods have grown dark and you’re running away from a monster, trying not to trip and fall. The chorus from earlier then turns into a creepy chant behind the intense vocals, reminding me of the scene in Snow White where she’s running through the woods, getting her dress caught on the tree’s branches.
We are then treated to the song’s closing track, “windtime wolftime,” which broke away from the other two songs somewhat in that it sounded more like video game music to me than anything. Which was wonderful, because by the time the previous song was closing on its long ambient ending, I was honestly hoping for a change. And I got exactly that with this fun, upbeat track.
All in all, this album feels like a two-book story with a video game adaptation at the end, which is wonderful. The powerful movements in the first two tracks complement each other beautifully, if at times slowly, and created powerful imagery in my mind. The last song just let me headbang in delight, which is all I really want out of any metal record. Two of my favorite bands have come together to create this dreamy, solid, antifascist work, and I highly recommend it if you enjoy black metal even the slightest bit, or if you just want to support some incredible musicians.