Expands, pushes, pulls and tears at the fabric of black metal

An experiment in two phases. This split record consists of distinct halves; one from dark solo project-turned recent collective Burden Man; and the first offering for Spire-adjacent entity OTHRS since 2018’s Broken Dialogue. And, for Burden Man, it is the first offering since their 2019 self-titled EP. The split release sees both acts tackle the themes of pain and grievance. But how will their disparate styles sync together? This reviewer aims to find out. 

Burden Man kick things off with Hours of Emptiness and it’s already possible to see how the new rhythm section of Blaize Irving-Holliday and scene stalwart Yonn McLaughlin have arguably given the art of frontman Justin Finch (no relation) a new foundation in black metal. Don’t be mistaken, it’s still firmly rooted in post-black, but the roots (no pun intended) are that much more visible. The rhythm section fits like a glove. Stellar drumming, pounding bass and a bluesy, rocking solo really fill this one out and help distinguish it even from bands by which they drew inspiration.  The gradual fade to Americana/folk-influenced passages (inflected with clean singing) was a surprising transition and really highlights the skill with which Burden Man approach their craft. In a way, the melding of these styles reminds me thematically of what an act like Cobalt could do, but Burden Man’s approach is something all their own. 

Desire for Silence is almost the inverse of the preceding track. A sombre mood is felt at the commencement of the track before it erupts into a blackened doom-influenced passage with frenetic drumming. It’s a gradual decay from the forlorn to the triumphant; almost a tug of war between the heavy and the mellow. Yet the way the song is constructed works perfectly here. It’s rare to have an artist incorporate so many influences; almost throwing in the kitchen sink, yet retain full control of their sound.  

OTHRS begin their half with Concrete Graveyard. Black metal theatrics precede a slow burn to a nihilistic approach fuelled by sludge and doom influence. Over that, instrumentalist M.R. further incorporates a layer of dark rock which, when propelled by the black metal-inflected vocals of session vocalist V.S., adds another element to the already busy soundscape. All of these elements coalesce to build something that almost sounds industrial in scope even if the sound is far removed from that genre. It’s a lengthy piece that slowly unveils itself and is worth the reward.  In a way, the atmosphere created certainly lives up to what is conveyed by the song title. 

We conclude proceedings with Invisible Mountain (a cover from North Carolina, USA madmen Horseback) and it feels like it fits in perfectly with what Concrete Graveyard led up to. The full-sounding production and vast instrumental layering really allows OTHRS’ rendition to shine and stand on its own. What was created here was again an instrumental bed over which V.S.’ here rock-influenced vocals weave in and out; sometimes rising above the music and sometimes inhabiting it. OTHRS’ side of ‘Grievance’ also lives up to the name. Invisible Mountain is both weighty and weighted and you’ll struggle under it if you’re not careful. With that said, it’s the perfect end to such an introspective split. 

Grievance was a split release that I approached with excitement and even some trepidation. I was curious to hear how such distinctive acts could come together to help forge something of a united atmosphere. With that said, it is clear that they both had the title in mind for a theme and knowing this I’d say they pulled it off quite well. Fans of either act and/or their members’ other projects would likely find a lot here to enjoy. With that said, if you’re interested in discovering music that expands, pushes, pulls, and sometimes even tears at the fabric of black metal, Grievance is something I think you will enjoy very much. 

  1. Hours of Emptiness – Burden Man
  2. Desire for Silence – Burden Man
  3. Concrete Graveyard – OTHRS
  4. Invisible Mountain – OTHRS