Following the excellent Deafkids/Rakta Live At SESC Pompéia release in May, we have another split in the form of Maggot Heart/Okkultorati’ EP courtesy once more of Rapid Eye Records. Berlin trio Maggot Heart‘s sophomore album Mercy Machine was reviewed last year by yours truly and for the uninitiated the band consist of Rapid Eye Records label owner Linnéa Olsson (formerly of The Oath and Grave Pleasures), bassist Olivia Airey and drummer Uno Bruniusson.Okkultokrati, who I’m not as familiar with, are a black metal band from Oslo, albeit one with a strong experimental streak. Formed in 2008 they have five full-length albums, the most recent of which was 2020’s La Ilden Lyse (Let the Fire Shine). The line-up is Dionysiac – vocals, Black Race – guitar, Verminscum – drums, Le Ghast – bass, Empyrean – guitar and Azoth on keyboards. The cover was designed by Swedish artist and musician Johannes Brander while the legendary James Plotkin handled the mastering.
Each band contribute three tracks starting with Maggot Heart‘s No Song which is a little different to what I’ve become accustomed to from them. They opt initially for a more brooding pulsating krautrock vibe; Patti Smith style spoken word vocals in tow and it takes a couple of minutes for the band’s familiar brand of Voivodian post-punk/alt-rock to hone reassuringly into view. Upon a cursory glance at their back catalogue, I see this is the longest track they have ever recorded and at nearly seven minutes its indicative of a band wishing to broaden their musical horizons.
Speaking of Voivod, Zero Hour Day encapsulates the best elements of that band’s epic space themed prog thrash but with an additional spiky punk edge. If Riot Grrrl sounded this interesting, there’s every chance I’d have engaged with it more growing up. Soulpolice takes a far more direct Motörhead influenced approach, the drumming at times reminding one of Philthy Animal Taylor and you could easily imagine the late, great Lemmy up front barking out the vocals. A punchy and bracing end to Maggot Heart‘s side.
although it may on paper seem like an unlikely collaboration, the contrasting styles do in fact complement each other…
Now onto Okkultokrati and their opener Thunders Possessed was certainly not the raging, discordant black metal I was expecting, instead we’re greeted by some solid mid-tempo fist-pumping Judas Priest style action with tastefully interwoven keyboards (thankfully not of the Turbo kind). Even if you’re relatively nonplussed by 80s trad metal the music here is nonetheless handled with class and subtlety.
Wolfssegen delves into classic goth-rock and the grandeur that comes with that genre is certainly present. Even though I’ve spoken disparagingly about The Sisters of Mercy in the past, I cannot deny the top-level musicianship and songwriting that went into albums such as Floodland and Vision Thing and this track shows that this influence has been successfully incorporated into Okkultokrati‘s sound.
Finally Candlemas Eve winks at the band’s black metal past with a slightly more aggressive tone that at times reminds me of Megadeth’s In My Darkest Hour meets latter day Darkthrone, so we aren’t talking warp speeds here. The track demonstrates that black metal doesn’t have to sound like it’s been recorded in a bin (in true kvlt style) and can be experimental without sacrificing any of the artists power and integrity.
Reading the numerous accompanying promo notes, it’s clear both bands hold one another in high esteem and although it may on paper seem like an unlikely collaboration, the contrasting styles do in fact complement each other rather well. The split record may be a relatively old-school concept but here it’s been given a new lease of life. ( the sleeping shaman // Reza Mills )