Kreuzer / Surma - _Viltis / In Hoc Signo Vinces / Allocutio_
(The Eastern Front, 2008)
by: Quentin Kalis (6 out of 10)
On _Viltis_, the split format has been utilized once gain to introduce two young acts to a wider world. Both are located within the martial/ambient field, or more accurately, possess military themes but with subdued martial inclinations. This has been released simultaneously with their respective debut full-lengths: Kreuzer's _In Hoc Signo Vinces_ and Surma's _Allocutio_.

Holy Land newcomer Kreuzer are first up on the split, and one of the few Israeli artists to even entertain martial themes in an otherwise prolific, if small, post-industrial community. I guess a combination of conscription and living with an omnipresent threat of war dampens the ardour for martial games. The opener starts with a sample of a wartime songs before settling into an industrial rhythm. Although the steel rolls could be said to resemble a military tattoo, the martial flavour is subdued, and the remaining four songs veer between noise lite and dark ambient, resulting in a very bleak and stark listen.

Surma hails from the Ukraine but follows a similar line of industrial and dark ambient with a martial outlook. His approach is just as bleak, which is where problems begin. This may have seemed like a good choice of bands in theory for a split, but in practice, it was a misguided choice. They appear to have aimed for a convergence of sound, as this is a bleaker listen than either of their albums, but it just doesn't work. The bands are too similar; if I was listening to this on shuffle mode, I wouldn't be able to tell one from the other. It suffices as an introduction to two martial themed newcomers, but that's it.

Kreuzer's debut full-length _In Hoc Signo Vinces_ follows along the path established on the _Viltis_ split, but less drear and with stronger martial inclinations -- though still comparatively subdued and cannot begin to compete with Blood Axis or The Protagonist. The album is thematically centred on the Crusades. (Clearly the speech samples are not from the period in question!) Both rhythms and melodies remain of the most rudimentary kind. This is neither inferior nor superior to the split, merely a lateral step.

Surma too embarks upon a more militant course on _Allocutio_ that is less bleak than on the split, but still strongly aligned to dark ambient and industrial -- albeit the most martial sounding of the three, incorporating both speech samples and snippets of WWII era songs. The varied approach means that this is a more interesting listen than their work on _Viltis_, but like Kreuzer, they lack that indescribable spark that would allow them to tower above other artists in the ambient/industrial scene.

Contact: http://www.theeasternfront.org

(article published 5/5/2009)


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