Tuesday 20 January 2015

Keeper/Sea Bastard - ‘777/Astral Rebirth’ Split 12inch (Review)

Album Type: Split 12inch
Date Released: 3/2/2015
Labels: Dry Cough Records,
Medusa Crush Recordings,
Black Reaper Records,
Tadpole Records

‘777/Astral Rebirth’ LP//DD track listing:

1. 777 -  Keeper
2. Astral Rebirth - Sea Bastard

Keeper is:
Jacob Lee | Guitar, Bass, Vocals
Penny Keats | Guitar, Drums, Vocals

Sea Bastard is:

Monty | Vocals
Oli | Guitars
George | Drums
Steve | Bass


Being that this will be the first split I’ve ever reviewed; I’ve had to think about how to write about this split from Keeper and Sea Bastard. I’ve wondered if it were right to compare them up against each other and declare a winner. I’ve considered writing two separate mini-reviews for each track. Neither really seemed like an ideal solution, so I’ve decided to review the release as a whole with the understanding that while both of these bands are clearly doom metal bands, they both also occupy very different spaces within that subgenre.

Keeper turned heads with their ‘MMXIV’ demo earlier this year getting recognition on year end lists from Kim Kelly for Pitchfork, CVLT Nation, as well as getting strong reviews from our own Elinor Beckford here. It’s easy to hear why they’re getting this kind of attention. Keeper specializes in the sort of ugly, grotesque doom metal that few ever really get right, but plenty have tried. If you were to combine the filthy, disgusting atmosphere of Khanate’s debut with the primal barbarity of early Grief in the early 90s, you might be in the right ballpark.

While a lot of this sound relates to what Keeper produced on ‘MMXIV’; the production and personality of this track surpasses anything on that demo, which is really saying something. The excesses of ‘MMXIV’ are driven even further. The vocals, which invoke a black metal Alan Dubin for all their gnarled insanity, are harsher than before. The deep, thunderous palm muting which was very much a hallmark of the demo is even more destructive. It’s easy to see how this would simply be sensory overload for many, but for those of us who thrive on an over-abundance of filth and misery; you’re going to be hard-pressed to find anything that can stand up to “777”.

No less heavy, but perhaps less vile and intense is Sea Bastard’s “Astral Rebirth”. Here, the doom is similarly influenced by Grief, but Sea Bastard like to explore droning and stoner tendencies as well, most prominently in the finger tapping transition of the main riff.  The vocals are also a deeper croak, which will definitely be more palatable for a lot of doom fans. There’s a sense that while “Astral Rebirth” is as cohesive as a twenty minute song should be expected to be; there are also clear sections where the song’s overall theme is played out in different ways. The opening riff, with some subtle variation takes up the most real estate with eight minutes of focus before giving way to a several minutes of drum less guitar drone. Things take a turn for the up-tempo from there, while playing with a similar tone to the main riff. “Astral Rebirth” takes you on a journey, while “777” is claustrophobic and purposefully confined, which is not a criticism.

There’s an old cliché that there’s more than one way to skin a cat, which always struck me as a pretty awful thing to turn into a common phrase, but in a way it fits the purely sonic nature of this split. Keeper is maniacal, surreal and visceral. Sea Bastard is brutish but explorative. Both are ruinous, devastating bands in their prime. While everyone is going to prefer one band’s methods over the other based on personal preference, it’s impossible to ignore the strength and value of both bands, which makes this split more than worth your time.

Words by: Daniel Jackson

You can pick up an LP copy here. Digital downloads will likely be available here and here at a later date.

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