Split Review: Penance Stare/ATVM (Black/Death/Screamo)

Written by Iōhannēs

>Penance Stare/Atvm – The Split w/ Atvm
>Blackened Death / Screamo
>United Kingdom
>Releases July 11th
>Bandcamp Link

“As glamour fades with age/we soften and rot”

As a fan of dark and dissonant music, The Split w/ Atvm by Penance Stare and Atvm gives me a good opportunity to promote a great set of bands. I don’t dare say this is an easy listening experience, but if you like your music dark, brooding, and often scary, this is the split for you. These two bands from across the pond (well, from me at least) seem to know how to build their atmospheres and keep the listener out of their comfort zone.

Starting with Penance Stare, the four tracks found on this side pound into your skull from minute one to minute last. The grooving intro over the sharp arpeggiated chords of “Seven Vials” brings the listener into a disparate and terrifying atmosphere. At first I was caught off guard, but as I sank deeper into the pits of this side, I grew an immense appreciation for the spartan and overwhelming production. Everything is meant to throw you off and keep you uncomfortable, and I deeply enjoy that in my music. The vocals certainly add a flavor of despair to the mix, often howling at the listener, occasionally breaking into spoken-word and regular singing as found in “Black Cat Petunias”. Its abrasive production grows on the listener but never stops being disquieting. Overall, a knock-out start to the split.

Moving over to Atvm’s side, we get a softly played intro that sounds a bit off-kilter, which then slams us into a punishing blast of blackened death metal with the first track, “Brutalism”. This side feels more traditional in a sense. The production is much cleaner and clearer, the vocals more of a guttural growl, and the guitar work more technical. It contrasts from the previous side in a satisfying way. In its antithetical nature it compliments Penance Stare’s oppressive feel. Granted, it’s still just as dissonant and discomforting as the previous side, but it will surely feel more at home for those used to this particular style of extreme metal. A healthy dose of black and death metal can be found in the tremolo-picked chords and single-line riffs that permeate the two tracks Atvm provide. Maybe the songs are a bit long in comparison, but they don’t drag and they keep your attention throughout, so it’s not that big of a deal. 

As a taste of what both these bands are capable of, this split offers plenty to attach to and piques my interest in both bands. Aside from the clean guitar intro of “Brutalism”, it does not let up and forces the listener to experience the anger and anguish surely poured into these songs in its purest form. The short nature and total awesomeness of the split discourages me from picking standout tracks, as all the tracks stand out to me. I won’t even pick a favourite side, since that would be unfair to both bands and I think both sides are of equal worth and merit, which is surely the sign of a well-made split.

The Bottom Line

A short but pummeling slice of two brilliant underground bands, this split offers the listener a challenging but ultimately rewarding experience from beginning to end. Keep an eye on both of these bands, as I’m sure they’ll be making even more excellent music in the future. I’ll certainly look forward to i