This collaborative split unites two of Finland's less traditional black metal-bands. I'm very familiar with the works of Verge, but this is the first time I'm hearing Charnel Winds. CW's demos and the currently sole full-length "Der Teufelsbund" have received a lot of praise, so I think I'll be looking into their works sooner or later as well...
... and this split makes me want to do it soon. The first song opens with a rather waltzy, twisted and ridiculously catchy riff that's been stuck in my head since the first time I laid my ears on it. Some moments of this twenty-minute piece of modern black metal are indeed rather catchy and instantly appealing, but there are even more of melancholic and almost depressed moments. Yet, even these deepest pits of torment have a gleam of hope and purpose shining through, making these two ends of the spectrum operate in full balance despite their differences.
The songs range from the closing number's mid-paced and dark but purposeful moods to more twisted and progressive riffing with less blackness, more mysticism and an aura spirituality - and of course, these ends meet in their middle ground as well. The traditional black metal-riffing claps hands with guitar solos and bolder riffing, and the two very different vocalists enhance both of these aspects with style. Verge's vocalist executes his dry and tormented trademark screams and shouts, whereas Charnel Winds' vocals are actually cleanly sung or spoken ones. The latter ones do a world of justice to the mid-paced, simplistic but very stylishly dramatic song "Wingless Dragon" - a song that delivers some of my favourite moments and the strongest atmospheres on the whole collaboration.
Even though I'm not a big fan of the dark, blurry and minimalistic visual side, I see how it fits the record's theme. The booklet holds all the lyrics and, shortly, they are great. I interpreted them as thoughts and contemplations about spirituality and a human's possibilities regarding it, the nature of the universe, and Lucifer as both a trixter and a bringer of wisdom. They're written in a somewhat simplistic manner so they should be rather easily understandable, yet they have deep symbolism and "hidden" messages.
This collaboration is not perfect nor essential to the traditional black metal-listener, but the eager followers and curious students of the modern and more spiritual/religious black metal movement should find a lot of greatness, joy and wisdom within its contents. As per its musical side alone, it brings out the trademark styles from both of the bands and marries them with a good sense of style - not seamlessly nor perfectly, though, but in this case perfection would equal lying to the listener due to the lyrical themes. These songs are not from (nor for) those who've reached the end of their spiritual journey, but from people who are struggling, fighting, learning and eager on it - and joyful of each hit from the trixter's tormenting whip.
Do believe that these songs are certainly not some weak leftovers. They have some usual and traditional elements, but the amount of dedicated effort and honesty that shines through the songs rises them above the grey mass.