There are few things more satisfying than a truly excellent split album. The options are fairly wide open, of course: One can find two bands that play very similar styles, and hope that a friendly spirit of competition will urge each of them to produce exceptionally good songs; one can find two bands whose styles don’t necessarily seem perfectly matched, yet when presented as a complement to the other featured act, make some curious sense together; or, of course, one can find two completely unrelated and bizarre bands to pair, and just revel in the strangeness. All of these strategies can be used quite effectively.
Here are some of the successful splits I’ve got around the house that first came to mind:
Fen & De Arma
Most of these splits fall into that first category, I suppose, although the Cough & Wounded Kings split seems more like the second category. Nevertheless, all of these are incredibly delicious splits. Still, the entire reason I got to thinking about these split albums in the first place was because of a truly world-devouring split that didn’t happen.
Blut Aus Nord – Thematic Emanations Of Archetypal Multiplicity
You see, these two EPs were originally intended to be released as a split album, and the more I listen to both of them, the more I am completely devastated that they were not released as such. Now, I own both of these mini-albums on CD, so of course I can (and do) just play them back-to-back. But that’s not really the point. If these two monstrous recordings had been issued on the same disc (or as a split vinyl!!!!), I have little hesitation in saying that they would qualify for the title of BEST SPLIT ALBUM EVER. Blut Aus Nord dipped into a completely new style of groaning industrial beauty on Thematic Emanations, closer in spirit to Ulver’s Perdition City than anything else in the French mystiques’ catalog (well, perhaps until this year’s mind-blowing 777 – Sect(s), but that’s another story…), while the Axis Of Perdition took the overblown insanity of their debut to new atmospheric and compositional heights. The bands sound nothing alike, but it’s entirely natural to hear them plying these disturbed sounds in the other’s presence.
So, here’s my question to all of you brave readers out there: What are the most amazing split releases that weren’t? I’m not actually thinking just of splits that were supposed to happen but didn’t. I mean, use your imagination. Think of some of your favorite EPs, and then think whether they could be even better in the context of a split. Here are a few of my just thought-up dream splits:
Ulver – Vargnatt (demo) & Agalloch – Of Stone, Wind & Pillor (EP):
Gorgeous folk/black metal stirrings from both originators and inspired progeny. Bonus points if we could convince Ulver circa Shadows Of The Sun to record their own version of Agalloch’s cover of Sol Invictus’s “Kneel to the Cross.”
Destruction – Sentence Of Death (EP) & Sodom – Obsessed By Cruelty (EP)
Two of the rawest, thrashiest, proto-black-iest sets of 20-ish minute madness from Germany in 1984. Imagine these two slabs of influential metal history as one 38 minute album. Then, imagine your brain slowly dribbling out your ears, and stupidly gleeful drool rolling down your chin.
Neurosis – Sovereign (EP) & Godspeed You Black Emperor! – Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada (EP)
This one’s a bit more of a stretch, but the corresponding influence of Neurosis on metal and Godspeed on indie and post-rock are similar enough, and the cinematic scope of both bands’ approach to texture and composition dramatic enough that I think fans of either band would find much to enjoy in the other’s output were these two excellent EPs to be smashed into one dreamy eruption of time-stretching bliss.
Feel free to test out some of these split ideas on your own and let me know how they hold up. In the meantime, what are your perfect splits that the cruel ravages of history and commerce have forever denied the world?