Unsettling Obscurity: VUUR & ZIJDE / IMPAVIDA Split Review

Updated: May 8

Two shadowy black metal projects coalesce to create one of the finest releases of the year.

Words by Ryan McCarthy:

Five seconds into this release, I knew it would be to my liking, though in truth I was sold from the below press release statement alone:


“While recording in a remote yurt on the Frisian shoreside, [VUUR & ZIJDE] opted for a nostalgic production reminiscent of genre-defining demos from the early 90s to fit their own style.”


Hauntingly sung female vocals rise up out of the opening silence to begin Zonnesstorm, the first track on this split and, as far as I can find, the first offering from VUUR & ZIJDE, a black metal trio who shares members with LASTER, NUSQUAMA, and TERZIJ DE HORDE. Icy synths haunt the background of this track, adding the final element to conjure the expected atmosphere for a record that was recorded in, you know, a yurt on the North Sea.


Regarding the aforementioned clean vocals, you may think they’re just a flourish adding some extra color to what’s otherwise a conventional metal record, but you’d be wrong. The second song, Zilt, demonstrates that the clean vocals will remain front and center for the entirety of this half of the split. I can’t think of many black metal bands whose vocals are entirely sung, but it works phenomenally well for VUUR & ZIJDE (whose name translates to “Fire & Silk” in English).


The third track, Noordzee, begins with a discomfiting ambient passage that recedes into a mid-tempo black metal composition with all the bombastic intensity of a proper album closer rather than the third track on a five song split. Indeed, every facet of the first three songs of this split lends itself to creating a sonic environment that truly does embody the dynamism and spirit of the 90s black metal pioneers.


Moving on to the second half of this split, international duo IMPAVIDA offers a similarly ethereal and transcendent listening experience. While the anonymous members of the band hail from Germany and the US, the vibe on these tracks is one of potent immediacy, as if they were recorded live in the same room. IMPAVIDA’s music has rightfully been called “a nihilistic void set to music.” I came into this record already a fan of IMPAVIDA, whose 2019 release Antipode absolutely blew me away. That sentiment carried over quite easily to the two songs on this split.


IMPAVIDA has an ability to create deeply unsettling music. Gram is on the shorter side for an IMPAVIDA song, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in lush audial textures where guitars sound like synths, synths sound like guitars, the drums sound like a very talented lunatic with an assortment of pots and pans, and the vocals reach levels of feverish intensity and passion.


Wahn & Stille (Delusion & Silence in English), by far the longest track on this record, begins with a disorienting clean guitar line that slowly devolves into an audible approximation of observing yourself going insane. The riffs themselves are easily digestible and actually rather catchy, but the overall effect and atmosphere leaves you simultaneously reeling and wanting more. I risk being even more cliche than usual by saying this, but these five tracks are truly something you experience rather than simply hear. The press release put it succinctly and profoundly:


“Meant not for the faint-hearted but all those who seek transcendental aural darkness, the groups' self-titled joint effort stimulates imagination and - ultimately - leads to remarkable revelations.”


Anyone looking to initiate an out of body experience is encouraged to light some incense, spin this record, and traverse the abyss.

The VUUR & ZIJDE / IMPAVIDA split is out May 8, 2020 via Prophecy Productions and can be ordered HERE.

Cover art by Fabian van Beek

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