Originally written by Jordan Campbell
You’d think Minnesota would be a natural habitat for the blackened arts. The climate fluctuates violently between unbearably hot and unbearably cold (Desert Northern Hell, anyone?), frostbite is a legitimate concern, and tendencies toward self-imposed solitude and bitter passive-aggression cast a grim pallor over our culture. (As does the perpetual failure of our professional sports franchises. Enjoy watching your 184-million-dollar converted first baseman slap singles in your publicly-funded stadium, yuppie suburbanites.)
Truth is, Minnesota’s metal scene is rather disjointed, a result of divergent tastes and fractured geography. The Twin Cities have forever been a hotbed for indie rock, and as such, the more abrasive spawn like Bloodnstuff and Gay Witch Abortion are fonder of Big Business and AmRep than blast beats and bangovers. The stoutest purveyors of riffery are Red Desert and Zebulon Pike, but the former draws more beardos than rippers, and the latter would be the king of the land if not for their penchant for 20-minute, minimalist doom epics (and inability to properly market themselves).
Sixty miles Southwest, Mankato is building a sturdy fortress of brutal death metal, with ready-for-prime-time techsters Face of Oblivion providing the foundation. Eastward in Rochester, Adora Vivos is quietly dooming on, while northward in Duluth…well, let’s be honest: Duluth might as well be another goddamn planet. Even after living there for almost twenty years and becoming adept with this thing called “the Internet,” cracking into 218 culture from afar is practically impossible.
Traversing the lonely Minnesotan interstates is daunting. Launching their connected dots into cyberspace? Even moreso.
Enter Tridroid Records. Initially a cassette-only label, this St. Paul-based imprint is now using a another tried-and-true medium to spread the metal: the compact disc. (Also, Bandcamp.) Their most recent release is a split featuring Amiensus and Oak Pantheon. Each act carries a wooded black metal influence that sounds as much inherted as it is inherent.
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Amiensus‘ nearly ten-minute contribution is a multi-layered expansion on the sounds found on their August debut, Resoration. It’s unquestionably tethered to the same folk ethos as Wodensthrone, Winterfylleth, Thrawsunblat, and similiar acts with a rigid adherence to using landscapes as album covers. But there’s a peaceful grandeur running through “Arise,” taking the triumphant affirmations of Ne Obliviscaris and grounding them with introspective melodies a la Daylight Dies.
Amiensus might need some more time on the trail before they sound less like an amalagmation and more like, well, Amiensus. But “Arise” is a sprawling composition that strikes that brilliant balance between meticulous and heartfelt; not a second of these ten minutes are wasted. The soul is strong within these ones.
The segue to Oak Pantheon‘s side is a smooth one; the fuzzed-up rock riff that opens “A Gathering” sounds like something off The Mercian Sphere filtered through the idiot-savant simplicity of thehappymask. At first blush, t’s a tad unpolished compared to the work of their compatriots, but at the midway point, the song takes a turn towards the epic. Laconic leadwork provides solid, mountaintop footing before launching into majestic, double-bass flight. It’s a wonderful build, a sign that their ambition (and knack for storytelling) is bursting from their current stitches.
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