Sun of the Sleepless / Nachtmahr - _Split_
(Lupus Lounge, 2004)
by: Pedro Azevedo (8.5 out of 10)
A few years ago, Sun of the Sleepless impressed me tremendously with the _Poems to the Wretches' Hearts_ EP -- a brief work, relatively simple in its _Transilvanian Hunger_ revivalism, yet virtually flawless for what it aimed to achieve. I have since only heard a stunning remix in a Prophecy Productions promotional compilation, as Schwadorf's (of Empyrium fame) solo project stayed in relative obscurity. Year 2004, Sun of the Sleepless return with a split release on Prophecy's new black metal sub-label Lupus Lounge. The other half of this split is provided by a band previously unknown to me: old-school black metallers Nachtmahr.

The first six tracks belong to Sun of the Sleepless and vary greatly in nature; they are mostly unreleased or recaptured from more obscure recordings (such as the aforementioned compilation song, the superb "Spring '99"). SotS open with "A Wolf in Sheep's Skin Clad", a fine example of cold black metal with an ear for melody akin to, say, Ulver. This time around the vocals are processed and distorted rather than "natural" sounding, but it fits well in the overall sound. Second track "Romanze zur Nacht" is a slower affair with a distinct lead guitar line driving the song and a clear doom feel. While lacking quite the impact of the _Poems to the Wretches' Hearts_ EP, these tracks would not have felt out of place there. SotS then move on to cover Burzum's "Dunkelheit", an interesting prospect given their profile as purveyors of quality black metal coldness with a doomy edge. The well-suited cover is pulled off in style, the original reworked in a subtle manner over more than seven minutes. "Neunter November" is the sort of track any band in the genre knows is going to draw some heavy flak, with its repetitive speech sample, trip hop background beat and electronic sound effects. Had it been one minute long, it might have been an interesting interlude; at three minutes in length it is excessive and ultimately redundant. Electronics are also heavily employed in the cover of Darkthrone's "Tausend Kalte Winter", but this time to much better effect: this vastly different reinterpretation features an outstanding background atmosphere, vague guitar and piano-like sounds, more of the heavily distorted vocals, and an ominous beat. A daring and accomplished six minute cover, considering the changes SotS made and the nature of the original author. Finally, the magnificent "Spring '99", itself a remix of a Sun of the Sleepless song, closes proceedings in great fashion: ambient electronics are mixed with an amazing sense of bittersweet, agonizing tension. Aside from the redundant fourth track, the Sun of the Sleepless part of the split is another excellent chapter in the band's short history.

Following up such a start could never be easy for Nachtmahr, but their Darkthrone-inspired style is not entirely out of place here -- and while they stick strictly to old-school formulas, adopting only a more professional production, these Germans churn out three fine examples of the genre. Those who enjoyed the Sun of the Sleepless EP, _Poems to the Wretches' Hearts_, are well advised to give the Nachtmahr side of this split a good chance: the cold melodies, simple drumming, raspy vocals and occasional acoustics may not be of quite the same level as SotS, but they remain very worthwhile. Hoping for a Sun of the Sleepless full-length may be no more than wishful thinking, but in the absence of that I'll be looking forward to a Nachtmahr album instead -- the two are different, but interest me for similar reasons. Overall, this split is definitely worth owning -- mostly for Sun of the Sleepless, clearly, but Nachtmahr are quite good and their style fits well, so this split is far from just an overpriced EP with some filler tacked onto the end.

Contact: http://www.lupuslounge.com

(article published 19/6/2004)


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