Back in 2014, Grimoire Cassette Cvlture brought forth a Californian duo who openly defied the sun – the very thing that exemplifies the balmy state in which they reside – releasing a demo that not so much turned heads as twisted them until they were wrenched from their doomed torsos. Now in 2015, Keeper return to haunt us all once more; this time bringing with them a quartet from a very different British coastal shore – Brighton’s monolithic warlords Sea Bastard.
For those who missed Keeper’s crushingly heavy MMXIV demo recording last year, it was a statement of intent from a band who sounded anything but green; their brand of feral, sardonic sludge barefaced in its delight of the wretchedness of the world.
Both dealers in misery and purveyors of the downtrodden, the two bands’ consummate pairing makes this release all the more impressive. Whereas Keeper are the sound of a tortured, agonised soul, Sea Bastard are the vehement pain-dealers, gloating in the presence of their comrades’ manacled, broken bodies and basking in their collective anguish - the tormented and the tormentor.
Keeper already come across like a better-oiled machine than they did last year – an impressive feat indeed, considering their incredibly strong foundations – and with ‘777’ the duo choose to embrace the unbridled ferociousness that comprises the predominant side of the band and cling to it for dear life for the ensuing quarter of an hour. This is Keeper at their most visceral, sounding utterly unrestrained as Penny Keats steals the show with his rasping, distorted bile, channeling a mass of anger and hatred in a cauldron of pitch black sludge.
And it’s only after Keeper’s final, agonising breath do the perpetrators of their agony reveal themselves; the menacing form of Sea Bastard consumes and envelops, focusing their fathomless doom for a twenty minute aural battering that sees the band sounding more convincing than they ever have. While 2013’s Scabrous was impressive in its hulking weight and murky depths, ‘Astral Rebirth’ is a meaner, more insatiable Bastard, wholly comfortable as a crawling, decrepit beast and equally confident when stepping up the pace to a stomping sludge metal groove.
This split is the instrument of its own torture, brought to life through two bands who complement each other while rejoicing in the darkness and depravity crafted by their own hands. With both sides of the Atlantic on top form, this can only be a collective taste of things to come.