Always be weary when the phrase “return to their roots” is used when describing a record.
It usually means someone who’s grown out of what interested them playing what interested them. Badly.
But because Aaron Turner is involved here, we can assume some sort of quality control.
Split Cranium consist of Faith Coloccia (Mamiffer, Mara), Aaron Turner (Isis, Sumac, Old Man Gloom), Nate Newton (Converge, Doomriders, Old Man Gloom), Tomi Leppänen (Circle, K-X- P) and Jussi Lehtisalo (Circle).
This is their second LP, after 2012’s warmly received self titled LP.
Beginning with twenty seconds of choral vocals and then turning into a dirty ‘Wolverine Blues’ style number makes ‘Evil Hands’ the ideal opener.
It sums up the record well, in that it takes an established formula and twists it ever so slightly, resulting in a good song lifted into the “memorable” category due to the little twists.
‘The Age of Embitterment’ carries on in this vein, but throws in harmonica as the main riff. This ends up giving the song a slightly wistful, almost melancholic feel to it which goes against the speed of the tune.
Nonetheless, it’s very cool.
‘Ingurgitated Liquids’ repeats the same trick as ‘Evil Hands’, but manages to sound almost apocalyptic thanks to the scuzz being of Motorhead like intensity, and the choral vocals given much more of a prominent role.
And so the album continues. By now, you should have got the gist.
It’s not a record that going to be topping end year lists by any stretch of the imagination. But the little surprises here and there, as well as the strong songwriting and musicianship will keep you coming back to the album.
And at no point will you be blown away by it. But, before you realise it, you’ll find that you’ve listened to it far more than you’d maybe expected.
As a side project, it stands up well in the sense that it does do something different from the main bands the members are pulled from. But you almost wish they’d do something a bit weirder with it: maybe throw in some black metal and some drum n bass for example.
Just something to lift it out of the “good but unspectacular” pile.
Nonetheless, this is a neat little record. Let’s hope the next one doesn’t take five years to appear.
2.5 / 5 –Christopher Owens ::: 20/05/18