Written by Kep
Thecodontion / Vessel of Iniquity – The Permian-Triassic Extinction Event (split)
Death metal / blackened noise from Italy / UK
Releasing September 3 via I, Voidhanger Records
Some things in life are an acquired taste. Lutefisk, for example. Tonic water, absinthe; caviar for sure, probably escargot, too. Vegemite. Cigars supposedly are. And some kinds of music work this way, too. Raw black metal, ambient, oddball guitarless death metal with snarly lyrics about dinosaurs and prehistory, harsh semi-industrial doomsday-conjuring blackened noise.
Those last two were pretty specific, huh? That’s because they’re in-a-nutshell descriptions of Thecodontion and Vessel of Iniquity, the two outfits who created The Permian-Triassic Extinction Event, a rad split that’s set to be released September 3rd on I, Voidhanger Records. It’s three tracks of music that takes some getting used to, but is absolutely worth the time to do so.
First, some background. Thecodontion is a two-man death metal curiosity out of Rome, made up of bassist G.D. and vocalist G.E.F., and their sound is 100% guitar-free. Hell, their (awesome) slogan is “NO GUITARS – ONLY DEATH!”, and you’re goddamn right the all-caps are essential. They released their wickedly good debut LP Supercontinent last year, working with session drummer V.P., and he joins them again here for their two tracks. They also get a vocal assist on their first song from Skaðvaldur, a multi-instrumentalist who cameoed on last year’s album. Vessel of Iniquity is a one-man project based in Oxfordshire, England, fresh off the release of a brand new LP called The Doorway on August 6. The mind behind the crushing, hair-raising blackened noise is A. White, who handles every single element of Vessel’s production in true DIY fashion. His half of the split is a single 11-minute track that closes the runtime.
Themed splits are always a bit more fun to me than your traditional “here’s some songs from some bands” type. In this case, the concept is right there in the title: The Permian-Triassic Extinction Event is a split about that prehistoric extinction. The two outfits approach the subject with extremely different tacks, and their respective approaches are strangely compatible. Thecodontion’s two songs each describe a specific creature—thecodontosaurus antiquus and procompsognathus triassicus, for you paleontologists out there—while Vessel of Iniquity’s track is a heavily atmospheric description of the extinction event itself. The lyrics in particular bridge together nicely, the Italians’ second song ending with a description of the twisted fossil of a creature that died in agony, and the following track opening with the words “Death by basalt volcanic eruption”.
For their part, Thecodontion’s contribution feels like it could have easily been written and recorded in the same studio sessions as Supercontinent. All the hallmarks of that album’s sound are present: the thundering, rollicking bass, the snarling death shouts, the funny little melodies played high on the bass neck, the bludgeoning drums that conjure primordial images in both rhythm and tone. It’s a grotesque and unnatural approach to death metal, and it’s every bit as lumbering and alien as the subject matter. There’s no band in the world that sounds like Thecodontion, and thus no band is better suited to roar inhumanly about dinosaurs and primeval times on tracks called things like “Thecodontosaurus antiquus (The Epitome of Dinosauria)” and “Procompsognathus triassicus (Death, Asymmetric and Grotesque)”. There’s no evolution of sound from Supercontinent, but that’s okay, because bestially-performed prehistoric pummeling a la that album is what set Thecodontion apart, and these two songs are among the best they’ve ever written. “Procompaognathus” is particularly great, ungainly heaviness juxtaposed against prolonged melodies and even some bass shred.
Speaking of music that’s among the best an outfit has ever written, let’s talk about Vessel of Iniquity’s half, the lengthy “The Great Dying”. White’s style is perfectly suited for this sort of concept; there’s an apocalyptic quality to it, something chilling on a wide scale. Maybe it’s the way that the shrieking, DSBM-style vocals seep in and out of the noisy distorted static, or the overwhelmingly large wall of sound created by buzzing, raw guitar and the breakneck drums. I actually think the most effective part of Vessel’s track is the ambient middle section, though, with its pulsating waves that rise slowly like the rhythm of a species’ dying breaths. This track is 11 minutes of world-ending destruction in sonic form, a true fusion of blackened suffering and maddening noise. It’s horrifying, frankly, and surprisingly moving even though it’s not “easy” to listen to in the traditional sense. Again, this isn’t an evolution (The Doorway was literally just released, so a lot of change would be surprising), but “The Great Dying” is effective, and the split’s concept might be the best type of subject for this project’s music: “A sky infused with volcanic ash / which falls to Earth and covers us / Life is death is life”.
There’s no getting around it: The Permian-Triassic Extinction Event is a split made up of sounds that qualify as acquired tastes. If you already dig these outfits, you’ll find a lot to love in the three tracks. But here’s the thing: Thecodontion and Vessel of Iniquity are absolutely tastes worth acquiring if you haven’t yet, and this split is a great place to start. Give it a listen this Friday!