Quite a few recent doom and hardcore releases have left me cold, as documented by my reviews of Goatsnake’s “Flower of Disease” reissue as well as the Shrinebuilder, Gnaw and The Endless Blockade albums. My general complaint was always that, while I liked the sound as such, the music came across as somewhat self-indulgent. Explore new territories they did not. Hence, the music sounded dated: enjoyable, mostly, but not instilling any enthusiasm.
Batillus and Hallowed Butchery, however, have made me interested again. The doom sound is instantly recognizable, complete with rasping vocals—an ultra-heavy onslaught. That’s the known and well-explored ground. But from here, Batillus moves towards irresistible, heavy riffing psych, while Ryan Fairfield’s Hallowed Butchery project fires a pistol to transcend the mossy caves and to throw fits of shoegazing prog doom. His ”Coffin Life” has to be the most original doom metal track I’ve heard in recent time. Starting out as an orthodox, slouching doom metal track, this 14-minute track goes through different movements, which Fairfield manages to link organically. It’s a track about a man who commits suicide after losing his wife, but who learns that death is followed by “nothing but the walls of this coffin life.” The final decision is pondered upon in an acoustic folk passage while the terrible post-mortem revelation explodes into widescreen format in a wash of a shoe-gazing, well, indie rock version of Wolves In the Throne Room. It’s not over quite yet, as the final moments of the track are made up of introspective, melancholy synths. All of which, mind, is played by Fairfield alone.
This is a brilliant doom metal split—the Batillus side rules, because the American four-piece works so effectively and freshly within the known framework. The Hallowed Butchery side is even better because he does the same, and much more, transcending the confines of the genre.
Mastered by James Plotkin, and nicely packaged. With this album and recent releases by Salome, Thou and Leech, Vendetta is emerging as one of the best labels for those who love their metal slow, and original. 9/10 -- Jan-Arne Sohns (25 August, 2010)