Black Pyramid and Old One Cross a Great and Doomed Divide on Split Vinyl

On this four-song Serpent Records split release, Massachusetts doomers Black Pyramid contend with Morehead, Kentucky duo Old One and show us as listeners two of the major developments in American doom over the last decade or so. Where the trio Black Pyramid go grand, constantly vying for the most epic riff, progression, sustained note, whatever, Old One opt for a grittier, nastier, sludgier sound that somehow holds on to a sense of ritualism without falling prey to ‘70s posturing or mere Electric Wizardry.

Black Pyramid are first, killing the Sagittarius all over their two tracks, “Illumination” and “Warswine.” “Illumination” makes for a quick 15 minutes, but shows marked sonic development from the band’s self-titled MeteorCity debut last year. The first six minutes or so rely on essentially the same riff, but the groove of the song and playing and singing of guitarist Andy “Dinger” Beresky is such that you lose yourself rather than lose interest. Black Pyramid’s rhythm section proves to be among the meatiest in the scene today, with bassist Gein’s rumblings providing a solid foundation for Beresky and the deft cymbal work of drummer Clay Neely.

There aren’t many structural differences between “Illumination” and the battle-ready “Warswine,” which is some seven minutes shorter at 7:57, but what Black Pyramid are showing with the track is their ability to apply more than one formula to their sound. Doubtless we’ll see more of this with their next release, whatever and whenever that might be, but what’s essential to understand until then is that Beresky, Gein and Neely are growing as players and as a unit. I was too busy thinking of Black Pyramid as a kickass album to think of it as a display of potential, but in the context of the years to come, that might have to be how it’s interpreted.

And then there’s Old One. Purposefully regressive, the duo of bassist Brandon Howard and drummer/vocalist Mike Cooper runs a constant organ line under the faster-paced “Over the Hill” while grooving out on the barebones nature of their craft. There’s a sense of abandonment throughout the track — as in recklessness — but Old One don’t ever actually lose control of the song in any of its six minutes. About as close as they come to frills is slowing down the ending to lead it into the 12:43 closer “Hexed.” Here the ultra Electric Wizard vibe comes out even more, and though the production is lo-fi, Old One don’t by any means fail to get their point across. Cooper’s vocals are a little cleaner, but the sloppier, live feel is maintained, and at the right volume, the lower-than-low end bass is enough to make you feel like you just put a quarter in your speaker because it advertised “magic fingers.”

It’s two separate styles within the same genre, but Black Pyramid and Old One manage to each convey an atmosphere of their own in under 25 and under 20 minutes, respectively. The success of the former’s self-titled will no doubt pique interest in the split, but whatever your reasoning for looking it up, be sure to listen to both bands with an open mind thinking doomed thoughts. Consider it recommended.

Black Pyramid on MySpace

Old One on MySpace

Serpent Records (also on MySpace)

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