Pairing two bands together for a split should be thoughtful and while there’s intrigue in seeing two totally different bands mashed together for a split and have the dichotomy displayed and examined, more often than not the best splits are when bands share a sonic and thematic camaraderie. This is very much the case with Amiensus and Oak Pantheon, both hailing from Minnesota too as a matter of fact.
The bands have their respective sounds but each is based on a bedrock of black metal that’s tinged with folk and rich in melody. This Agallochian metal can scale utterly profound heights when executed just right. Oak Pantheon did just that with 2012’s sleek album From A Whisper while Amiensus’ Restoration was an impressive first outing that any band releasing a debut would be envious of. The difference lies in each band’s persuasion. Oak Pantheon finds themselves toying with acoustic and folk elements much more so, while Amiensus’ vibe is more melody-driven, and an epic and adventurous one.
With two tracks each on this split, the bands both make two valid cases but craft one staggering split.
‘Arise’, the contribution from Amiensus, is a lush piece of melodic black metal layered with orchestration and daunting, towering clean vocals. The to and fro between the vocal styles, especially in the chorus, is the song’s standout element but is stunningly complemented by lustrous lead guitar work.
Oak Pantheon’s ‘A Gathering’ has a bit more history behind it, having been written during the From A Whisper sessions but ultimately discarded. It has been revisiting and revived on this occasion. It’s a more feral outing than ‘Arise’ with guttural vocals dominating the scene but From A Whisper’s sense of gorgeous melody couldn’t be fought off and this has manifested itself in the guitars especially.
The record’s artwork comes in two forms, the main front artwork The Plains of Heaven is gloriously indicative of the music. On first glance, it’s reminiscent of something that Drudkh would have draped across one of their album, while the other accompanying piece is a darker, more imposing painting entitled The Great Day of His Wrath. Both paintings are from a triptych, The Last Judgment, by 19th century English Romantic painter John Martin, who art took great inspiration from biblical passages (particularly in Belshazzar’s Feast) and the end times and the Book of Revelations, on which The Last Judgment is based.
This grim but gripping setting and visual is a fitting representation of the music held within; dark and lonely but still beautiful.