As I mentioned in my review of the split 7" a few weeks ago, these are easily two of my favorite artists working in the more experimentally focused metal scene (that currently doesn't have an inane genre tag, which I'm perfectly fine with). Unlike that single, this one sided LP has the two projects working collaboratively, with the results completely living up to expectations.
Jenks Miller's solo project Horseback has recently received wider exposure due to reissues via Relapse, but Horseback still remains far more complex than most other artists with a metal bent to their sound. Chicago's Locrian is now a trio after vocalist/keyboardist Terence Hannum and guitarist Andre Foisy added the accomplished experimental percussionist Steven Hess to their lineup last year. Coming off 2010's distinctly different LPs Territories and The Crystal World, they have developed into a unique balance of dark atmospheres and avant garde sounds. This release is partially a celebration of the upcoming Utech Music Festival, as these two are both the headlining acts, but it’s anything but a merchandising cash grab.
The shorter "The Gift" opens with heavily reverberated guitar noises and improvised percussion from Hess. Amidst the swirling chaos there’s guitar to be heard: rapid, sparsely effected notes that shine like a pinhole of light in the otherwise oppressive blackness. The vocals sound more like Horseback to me, so I'm guessing it’s Miller's guttural, pained vocals that instantly reminded me of Danny from The Shining. Half way in the drums lock into a more traditional rhythm, and the remainder would almost be a lush ambient piece if it wasn’t so heavy and evil sounding.
The longer "Our Epitaph" slowly lurches along over a sparse distorted bass and drum rhythm, which, when combined with the monastic, chanted vocals (which sound like Hannum, but I’m guessing), feels like a ritualistic chant, austere and focused. In the background a combination of guitar and synthesizer come together violently, slowly becoming the focus and engulfing the liturgical chants.
The thing is, this sounds not like a collaboration in the traditional sense but like a singular project that perfectly balances the influence of the individual parts. Miller's unique combination of black metal and old school minimalism perfectly matches Locrian's film-score like bleakness and juxtaposition of noise and structure. New Dominions sounds like the work of both artists, but neither one in particular. It highlights both of their strengths, blended into a perfectly unified whole that's among the best I have ever heard in this currently unnamed category of experimental metal. I just hope this isn’t the only collaboration these two bands will unleash.