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Prophecy Productions – Out Now.

As a teenage metalhead immersed in the Heavy Metal scene of the mid 80s, I had often relied on split releases, whether in full length, EP or singles format, as a means of keeping myself informed of new music. With the advent of the Internet, however, many record labels decided to abandon this strategy, leaving only a handful of their mainly old-school orientated colleagues to support this medium.

Now that vinyl is once again gradually finding its place in people’s music collections, the return of the split format has become not only of informative but also of pure collector value. It is perhaps this very logic that prompted Prophecy Production to present us with a two track release entitled “Fragments – A Mythological Excavation” – one featuring material by two of its most inspiring bands, namely Helrunar & Arstidir Lifsins.

Though clearly separated both in cultural and geographical terms, there are quite a few things that the German noisemakers Helrunar have in common with their Icelandic label mates Arstidir Lifsins, as suggested by this thirty five minute, two-track split release.

Both bands like their Black Metal riffs to be old-school, stripped down and to the point and they support their riffs with drum themes that are both rhythmical and bombastic. Though both clearly and heavily dependent on atmosphere, they utilise this aspect of their character in slightly different ways.

Helrunar mix their male/female vocal chants with layers of predominantly acoustic guitar themes, whereas Arstidir Lifsins acquire the assistance of a small string ensemble to support their singer’s fairly varied and much inspired performance. The end result, in both cases, is simply stunning!

The rather prolonged acoustic guitar intro of “Wein Für Polyphem” may trick you into believing that Helrunar’s contribution to this album is an exercise in ambient sounds and atmospheric soundscapes, but it will not be long before an array of mid 90s Darkthrone-sounding riffs and bombastic mid tempo drum themes remind you that what this is at heart is a Black Metal band.

Still, the harmonic guitar passages and vocal chants are of such quality that you will be hard-pressed to find many of such stature in other modern-day atmospheric Black Metal releases. Arstidir Lifsins begin their nineteen and a half minute musical journey in a similar fashion to Helrunar, but their moody epic sounds are not provided with the help of an acoustic guitar, but via a group of well-coordinated string instruments.

Like its predecessor, “Vindsvalarmal” is a beautifully balanced composition filled with haunting and mournful melodies, breathtaking narrative style vocal themes in the band’s native language, also showcasing an excellent understanding of what constitutes a commanding Black Metal riff (the latter is repeated throughout this long composition and adds much to its character in the process).

If you are the only person among your friends who listens to Black Metal and you are sick and tired of having your mates describe your chosen style of music as immature and artless, then this is the kind of release that will make them realise the error of their ways.

The music that Helrunar and Arstidir Lifsins are presenting to us via this split album is of immense quality – the kind of release that any fan of extreme metal music will be proud to include in their music collection. Now, as both the CD and vinyl versions of this release are of a limited nature you may want to hurry up and order your copy – I most certainly will!

John Stefanis

Rating: **** ½ (4.5/5.0)

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