DARVULIA / SEKTARISM  Mort Foetale / Punition Divine  CASSETTE   (Dead Seed Productions)   11.98

Also released on vinyl by Nuclear War Now, this split album sees two of the most sickening outfits in the Les Apotres De l'Ignominie circle finally pairing up, each offering a single, roughly twenty-minute long epic of satanic depravity sprawled across each side. This limited-edition cassette was put out by the French label Dead Seed in a cool hand-assembled package, the tape housed inside a printed box with a twelve page booklet, which is then enclosed in a die-cut slipcase, all printed with aged, sepia-toned images that resemble Victorian-era death portraits. Definitely one of the cooler-looking tapes on this week's list.

It's also one of the more surprising. Darvulia's "Mort Foetale" sounds totally unlike anything else I've heard from the French black metal outfit, seemingly abandoning their cruel, dissonant black metal for something more twisted. Granted, their music has always had a diseased, twisted edge, but this stuff is by far the weirdest and most experimental music that they've brought us. The side meanders through a drugged haze of random guitar noise and improvised drumming that drifts and lurches in slow motion, the vocals stretched out into an incomprehensible, putrid fog; swells of brushed cymbals surge in the background amid monotonous drones and washes of grim guitar ambience. Honestly, this sounds more like Nurse With Wound or some way-out European minimalist improv than black metal; the atmosphere is still thoroughly malevolent and hellish, though, erupting into a cacophony of mangled blackened buzz and minor key guitar only in the very last minutes. I loved it, but those looking for anything resembling standard black metal won't find it here.

On "Punition Divine", Sektarism counter with one of their own shambling, repetitious garage-doom rituals, pounding out a miserable two-chord riff in slow motion for long stretches of time, fronted by the singer's frantic, anguished vocals. Over the course of the twenty minute track, this deathrite procession breaks up into surges of demented noisiness and improvised heaviness, formless riffing collapsing into shrieking feedback, scraped guitar strings echoing through a haze of effects. But it always returns to that central dirge. Grimy and psychedelic, this song is slightly more polished than previous Sektarism stuff, but it's still ugly, fucked-up music, inhabiting a similar realm as hypno-creeps Aluk Todolo but with a much more narco-damaged, filth-encrusted sound.