In terms of heavy split releases, this shared venture between Philadelphia’s Mothman & The Thunderbirds and Ontario’s World Eaters will take some beating. Each band shares a very different kind of riff-based anger, but at the same time, their uncompromising sounds share a vision that, together, makes them a great fit. With just two songs apiece, it’s enough to make the listener aware of two underground bands that stand a chance of either thrilling or scaring the unwary. Either way, they’ve gained a reaction, so it’s all good.

Mothman ply a trade in confident, angular sounds. Their ‘Rusty Shackleford’ presents a great mix of sounds, opening with darkwave synths, moving through passages of heavy, almost grungy riffs, and eventually settling on a post-nu metal sound where the guitars crunch and chug in the vein of early Mudvayne. That sounds like three ideas thrown together to see what’ll stick, but at the same time, it works thanks to a forthright vocal that combines hardcore shouting to power a great verse with a soaring melody on the chorus which retains a natural anger. Factor in a brief burst of death metal drumming and an instrumental break where the guitars and keys hit upon some rather shrill noise-making, and this becomes a rather powerful three minutes. By contrast, ‘Nephilim’ is less accessible, but still very cool. From the outset, rapid fire drumming and shrill guitar sounds make no secret of a love of classic Fear Factory, but the vocal – again, drawing more from a hardcore tradition – brings everything back in line with the previous track. After about thirty seconds, it gets a little wearing (in a good way), but for those who can stick it out a bit longer, there’s a great mid section where massive bendy riffs hint at Strapping Young Lad, before the band explodes into a massively heavy but quite melodic end section that combines the heaviness of Machine Head with a huge harmony vocal that’s totally at odds with the music. It’s one of those cases where sheer bravery pays off, and if it doesn’t make you curious about other Mothman recordings, nothing will.

World Eaters are even more intense. The Canadian band care much less for variety, and their duo of riff-heavy workouts explore more of a classic death metal sound. As a result, ‘Flash of Green’ opens with a grinding bass before exploding into something that sounds like the regurgitation of classic Entombed colliding with Bolt Thrower on a low budget. The slightly fuzzy sound of the recording doesn’t hide the band’s DIY approach, but its still clear enough to show off some superb drumming and a wall of guitar work that slides between speed grinds and intensive thrash notes with ease. As is often the case, its when slowing down a little that the best moments present themselves and by injecting a doom riff into the track’s second half, it becomes something that might appeal beyond the purists, but the deep, guttural vocals will be make or break for most. Similarly, ‘On The Siege’ aims for a very heavy sound, but shows a different side to World Eaters via a huge, slow intro where clean guitars soar above a dark, intense, classic metal riff. This powers a brilliantly slow tune that owes more to doom than death, but another pure roar within the vocals makes the death influences unmistakable. As the riffs gain weight, a groove metal influence cuts into the drum’s rhythm, before the cleaner guitar returns for a haunting solo. Overall, it’s a decent piece of melodic death, but doesn’t always offer much to make World Eaters stand out from the crowd. That said, if you’re in the market for some well played death, there’s something to enjoy here.

Like all great splits, this isn’t about competition, or necessarily about any kind of musical face off; it’s more a convenient way of showcasing some great heavy sounds. It’s almost impossible to place one band above the other in terms of talent since they’re both great at their chosen style, but the varied approach taken by Mothman stands a better chance of pleasing a broader audience. As stated by the bands’ own press materials, though, the true winner here will always be the audience, since this brings riff after riff of sheer intensity to listeners everywhere. For those hankering after some top rank underground noise, this shared release is definitely recommended.

April 2023