Wolok/Rotting Heaven – The Anatomy Of Madness (2017)

What I have here is a split EP between French black metallers Wolok and (unfortunately now split-up) Russian black metallers Rotting Heaven. We’re going to focus on the Wolok side first, and then deal with what may as well be Rotting Heaven’s swansong.

Wolok is made up of three dudes, one of them seeming to have played in damn near every band in France at one point. I want to say that frontman Lhukkmer’thz has played in well over forty bands according to Metal Archives, and over half of them aren’t metal at all. How does he find time to eat, sleep and wash his ass? Regardless, it is an impressive achievement. Eyemeric Germain also plays in quite a few acts himself, handling the keyboards, drum effects and guitar for this particular disc. Cypher has only played in two bands as of right now, but in a month, that number might be fifty-two. He handles the drums and arrangements for this particular project.

As for the project, it is quite oblong. I’ve never heard guitars played quite this way before and I’m not sure what to think about it. Heavy synths fill the air as bizarre riff compositions back what seems like an electronically induced vocal. It feels as if you’ve walked into a strange alternate dimension where this what black metal sounds like for that particular species of mankind. Sometimes the vocals comes off a bit scathing, which works in a sort of mid-era Nine Inch Nails meets early Skinny Puppy fashion. I can say that I definitely feel that “The Murky Waters Of Life” was a terrific title for this particular track. It only becomes more bizarre as it goes on. I understand that this style of composition won’t be for everyone and I know there are some artists out there I’ve talked to that just don’t understand this kind of abstract art. It’s not quite throwing paint on the wall and certainly has some sort of substance, even though that particular substance is rather hazy. “Tremors” came next, with a continued industrial/black sense that I do not take issue with. Normally I expect so much from industrial/black acts and barely ever get what I’m asking for, but with this performance I find that it is not only completely out of the box, but it’s turned the box into a bizarre shape that threatens to tear the walls right out entirely. There won’t really need to be room for a box when this is said and done, even though it still plays by it’s own rules in the industrial genre to some extent. But it definitely has to have some level of structure or we’ll just have noise (which I can also argue retains some level of structure). Tinging synths come into play at the end of “Tremors” and feature more prominently in the slower and nearly doom/drone infleunce of closing note “Skull Gnawer.” I especially like the melodies here, giving off an oddly Fear Factory-esque tone. I’d be a fool to not mention the obvious Godflesh nodes here and there as well. Overly, it’s quite strong – but definitely is an aquired taste. I still feel as if this is still a demo of sorts and it is possible that Wolok did not begin with this style of music, so I do not know how older fans may react to this EP perfomance. Nevertheless, it is a good showcase of what they can do on this level.

Next, we have this swansong from now-defunct Russian black metallers Rotting Heaven. The disc begins with a slight electronic piece, but fires up with more prominent black metal. The interesting thing about this act was their ability to mix fearsome guitar riffs and well-thought melodies together with slight synths, which I hope they won’t neglect in Cage Of Creation, an act of which all three members of this band still play in. St. Pastor was in charge of the leads and vocal duties, which he did rather well. O. played bass and handled the electronic samples, with Vvurd handling rhythm guitar. The whole performance went together quite well and I’d even describe it as dynamic. All of these guys have vocal duties in Cage Of Creation, but I doubt that the other two can produce as much of a force that St. Pastor did. That man is a beast, and this little EP proves it. They also released a full-length back in ’12 called Apotheosis Of The Apocalypse which I’d like to get my hands on now after hearing this, because I feel it might be an undiscovered gem. There are no reviews for it in Metal Archives, but there are so many acts on the page that I’m sure many get passed by often. “The Bloody Reaper” is one of their highest moments here, purely due to its incredible sense of purpose within the creepy leads and absolutely scathing, truly meaningful vocal approach. This man is not screaming just to be doing so, he’s putting real thought into these lines and that shows on the performance. I have no idea why these gentlemen broke up, but I do hope that the Cage Of Creation material is as memorable as this. Each and every one of these three songs is a direct hit for me, for the slightly unconventional compositions and as I’ve noted, a true sense of being among the riff-structures. There are some clean lines here and there on the final cut, “An Altar Of Sacrifice” but you’re getting a vast mixture of vocal styles and techniques,quite like I choose to perform on our albums. I get tired of using the same old approach and feel it is necessary for the performance in general to switch it up. St. Pastor does that here, which only adds to the greatness of this incredible project. They couldn’t have ended this performance on a higher note and I’m quite impressed.

Both bands offer a formidable performance and I’d have to give this record a strong score in hindsight. I do feel that while Wolok’s material was weird and different, it felt like a demonstration of what they can really do. It wasn’t quite as fleshed out as it could be and perhaps that will change in the future. Despite the permanent split, Rotting Heaven’s performance was enormously noteworthy, and feels like an impressive denouement to what was surely an awesome heavy metal act. I loved it and would give it a near-perect score by itself. Though since I am judging the material of both bands, I have to figure that into the disc’s total score. Definitely check out this split if you’re adventurous enough, because I feel that it is truly worth it. The Grim Tower highly recommends The Anatomy Of Madness.

(6 Tracks, 43:00)

8/10

https://deathknellprod.bandcamp.com/album/the-anatomy-of-madness

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