Seattle’s Hissing likes to describe their take of black/death metal as “bad times music”. After just a few seconds of “Deserted Views” (their side of the split with Sutekh Hexen) that descriptor proves itself anything but an understatement.
The track opens in a cavernous atmosphere. Almost immediately out of that rises a cycling guitar noise. The instrument begins in a robust, mechanical repetition that thins out toward the middle, before finally plunging the song into a mess of primordial noise. That nightmare spell finally breaks and “Deserted Views” transitions into a swampy intermission for five minutes before crushing guitars and thunderous drumbeats close. Voices punch in and out of “Deserted Views”. They are disembodied and highly disturbed, as though roared out from a radio, slightly tuned down. At an expansive length of fifteen minutes, the band explores a wide range of uneasy sounds.
Considering the relative brevity on the tracks featured on last year’s two-song single, “Deserted Views” is the song I wanted from Hissing. This is a fully formed vision, an epic and explosive journey into the hellish depths of their musical imagination since their live incarnation, MMXVI came out of a tour with Sunn (((O))), a track that is proudly described as having no riffs.
Oakland’s Sutekh Hexen has been around making black metal for quite some time, their sound coming from a place of bleak abstraction. A look at their cryptic website reveals a dozen loosely linked singles, each one a study in harsh, shadow cast black metal.
Their track, “Paradolein” is minimal. It is laid out more as a means of exploring a single, contained atmosphere. The feedback drenched guitars fill the mix like a white-hot inferno with vocals swirling somewhere in the center. At thirteen minutes, it’s a long, tormented experience, one that is relentless in its sustained feeling of hopelessness.
Naturally, “Paradolein” bears comparison to Hissing on the album’s opposite side. Their song is bleaker and stands, to my ear, as a more cerebral take on drone metal. While each bears repeat immersions, I don’t feel like they compliment one another, although you might feel entirely different. My listens have been one side or the other.
What this split accomplishes though, why it’s worth dropping your dime, is that it provides an access point to two accomplished and exciting bands, driving the genre from underground.