Released: 2017, Cruz del Sur Music
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Aside from being totally underrated European doom bands, Hands of Orlac and The Wandering Midget don’t have much in common stylistically. The Swede-talian Hands of Orlac worship at the throne of Goblin, Italian Giallo and occult rock a la Coven and Blood Ceremony, while Finland’s The Wandering Midget revel in epic, Candlemass/Reverend Bizarre-esque traditional 80’s doom metal. But in a pairing that rivals combining chocolate and peanut butter on the pleasure scale, the two bands have joined forces on a new split album that showcases some of the best and most diverse sounds that the genre has to offer.
With two complete tracks and two interludes, Hands of Orlac own 4 of the 5 tunes on the album, which collectively might be some of the best material the band has released to date. The 13-minute “Curse of the Human Skull” starts out with some off-center rhythmic syncopation, but as The Sorceress casts her witch like vocal spell, the various dreamlike passages begin to weave together like a beautiful, gothic nightmare. “From Beyond the Stars” is a more straightforward doom rocker that still manages to embrace so much of the spooky, sonic weirdness that they’re known for. The interludes “Per Aspera” and “Ad Astra” might seem like superficial filler, but given the length and variety between each of the tunes, they actual act as palate cleansers that allow the subsequent tunes to shine.
“Where We March the Vultures Follow” is The Wandering Midget’s sole contribution to the split, but at 18-minutes, it’s basically half of the entire split’s run time. It’s a slow, methodical tune that kept me thinking back to NIGHTFALL-era Candlemass in both structure and in Samuel Wormius’ vocal presence. It’s an opus full of plodding, crunchy riffs, big vocals and a generally over the top sense of purpose. It’s good stuff.
I don’t know whose idea it was to pair these two bands together, but somebody needs to buy him and/or her a beer – it’s near genius how well these contrasting styles work together. Both Hands of Orlac and The Wandering Midget excel in their own tiny microcosms, but it’s great cross exposure for both bands and having Cruz del Sur release it gives both bands a bigger audience than a release like this would usually find otherwise. Horns up, this is time and money well spent.