Deathkings & Rozamov, Split: A Shared Tendency Toward the Extreme

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How exactly Deathkings and Rozamov might’ve gotten hooked up for a split release is something of a mystery. Geographically, it seems an unlikely pairing, with Deathkings based in Los Angeles and Rozamov in Boston, but I seem to recall the latter have been out west before, so they could have run into each other then. Or Midnite Collective, which is releasing the limited 7″ pressing of their combined effort could have been the catalyst just as easily. Both are on the lineup for Psycho California 2015, so that could have done it. Or one band could’ve heard the other on this new thing called the internet and sent a message over. The possibilities, roughly, are endless, but however it happened, they complement each other well. The 14-minute Deathkings and Rozamov split arrives in an edition of 150 black vinyl copies with one song from each outfit, both delighting in an extreme take on sludge and doom, but each group with a nuance of its own to offer something just slightly different from the other. They are a fitting combination, Deathkings offering the 7:54 “Solomon” to push the limits of how much a 7″ can hold and Rozamov answering back with the 6:44 “Ghost Divine,” pummel a uniting factor between the two as they offer up a slaying sampler of their wares to those on either coast who’ve already gotten or might get on board with their darkened visions.

For Deathkings, the split marks the four-piece’s first physically-pressed outing since their 2012 debut full-length, Destroyer, though they also had a single out at the end of 2014 digitally, and Midnite Collective reissued Destroyer on vinyl last year as well. They’re not strangers to extended forms, and use their space effectively, an undercurrent of post-metallic ambience and repurposed Neurosis influence in their vocal arrangements adding to the density of some of the open spaces of “Solomon,” which launches the 7″ at a tense but quiet rush, tom hits from drummer Sean Spindler setting the pace soon joined by gravely vocals before the full tonal breadth of guitarists Daryl Hernandez and Mark L√ľntzel and bassist Nicolas Rocha kicks in. Interplay between them becomes prevalent in a quieter break after the halfway point, but before they get there, Deathkings course through a doom inflicted with some blackened elements and a linear structure pushing forward into weighted plod and seeming to relent only to give the vocals appropriate room to urge the listener to “die now” on top of some suitably ritualistic background chants. Resurgence hits after the 5:30 mark and drives through frenetic turns toward an overarching lurch of a groove, Spindler‘s snare cutting through the mix to punctuate all the while a stomp that Rozamov will soon enough echo in “Ghost Divine.” That stomp serves as Deathkings‘ apex, however, and “Solomon” caps with just a short rumble that fades out quickly no doubt for spatial consideration of the medium. They’ve had a lineup change since recording the LP, though I’m not sure that accounts for the three years between releases, but the stylistic breadth and ambition in their songwriting makes Deathkingssound like a band actively seeking an open creative form, and “Solomon” reaps the benefits of that search.

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While shorter, Rozamov‘s “Ghost Divine” is perhaps even more given to extremity. Like Deathkings, the Boston trio have undergone a lineup shift since their last recorded output, their 2013 Of Gods and Flesh EP having included guitarist Liz Walshak, who can currently be found in newcomers Sea. As the trio of guitarist/vocalist Matt Iocovelli, bassist/backing vocalist Tom Corino (also of Kind) and drummer Will Hendrix, Rozamov are rawer on “Ghost Divine” than they were on the EP, but that rawness feels intentional. A feedback swell fades in to an immmediate thrust of blastbeaten grinding and fast-paced sludge churn, their sound having long since grown out of most of its initial High on Fire influence but retained a penchant for thrash. Iacovelli and Corino answer each other vocally over the central riff with an affect more in line with a hardcore punk cover of Vital Remains than anything particularly doomed, but the ambience remains heavy all the same, and only adds weight as it slows into a solo section, fluidly pushing toward its halfway point with grand, echoing lead notes over slamming hits that seem (in context) in direct conversation with those Deathkings brought to bear, the vocals returning to command the tumult ably before dropping off to a quieter stretch of atmospheric noodling, layered-in piano from Iacovelli and persistent drumming to hold the tension. They build back up, and as one might hope, churn their way back to the rush that typified the first half of the track, ending strong with sustained, layered screams/growls and amplified crackle, the confidence with which they present “Ghost Divine” doing as much to convey the extremity as the actual riffs themselves. They sound like a band ready to put together their debut full-length, and so they are.

No doubt it will be too extreme in its base of influence for some, but Deathkings and Rozamov‘s split is nonetheless efficient in conveying where each band is at, and its curated feel in how well one contribution feeds into the next is not to go unnoticed. As far apart as they might be on a map, the two groups draw a quick line between them of shared viciousness, and revel in their variations on the theme.

Deathkings & Rozamov, Split (2015)

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