In my humble opinion, few things better represent the joy of the underground heavy music scene than the split album. Throughout musical history, talented bands have banded together, pooled resources, and released splits to hungering collectors all over the musical underworld; in fact, I'd argue that many a split album have been integral to getting bands signed. If your band had only two or three songs to wow people who had never listened to you, all the while also trying to outshine ANOTHER equally desperate band on the same disc, chances are you'd go for broke and put out some of your best material. In short, as a music fan I'd say splits are transition periods, the place where some bands doom themselves to pointless blandness while others rise above due to strong toil and worth ethic.
Human Failures is one such obscure showcase of raw talent, and it is eight songs of fantastic stoner/doom bliss. The first four songs were penned by New Mexico's Spiritu, a fuzzy, melodic stoner rock band in the vein of (former tourmates) Clutch, with a little Kyuss or Melvins thrown in for good measure. Besides Clutch, the band has also toured with Sweden's famed Spiritual Beggars. Released on the tiny Meteor City label, the band's 2002 self-titled debut is the imprint's best selling release to date. The hard working and raw rawkers often inhabit a rich, carefree wall of sound, but how do they sound on this split, their first new material in a good year or so?
The answer is great! The first track, "The Ten of Seven Bell," sets the bar high for the rest of the split and kicks things off with a nice, fuzzy, yet melodic guitar line. Playing confident, laid-back, and furry stoner rock, Spiritu unleash an uplifting cut of soaring bliss. This is followed by the muscular "Objects of Desire," which unloads several leaden riffs alongside some determined, catchy fretwork. The hazy notes add to the vibe immensely, and this is a nice slab of trance rock. The craggy "Latitude" isn't afraid to show some Melvins worship perhaps, and overall this song maintains a much more sinister vibe than what came earlier. There are some very sweet rock bridges here and there as well, and the song's end of buzzing, feedback-drenched menace is impressive.
The slamming "Throwback" sounds to these ears like it's the best Spiritu track here, and doesn't bother with anything besides pounding stoner grooves ala Kyuss perhaps. I can see Spiritu being both heavy enough to appeal to more aggressive types, yet melodic and catchy enough to make a slow-burn on more mainstream circuits. Maybe they will take the Clutch route, and completely circumvent the traditional conventions of the music business. Here's hoping they do!
The last four songs are owned by Village of Dead Roads, a much darker and more doom-laden affair. The band proceeds to put out the better half of the disc (in my opinion at least) by slinking into a rhythm of intense, crushing doom. The plodding behemoth trudge of "Descendants of the Dendrites" is kind of like being forced to watch the shadow of an enormous meteorite widening, knowing that no matter where you run it is eventually going to smash you to bits. And when it does, the result is the song's kick-ass shift into a barely mid-tempo freakout with just the slightest hint of melody. "Skin Prison" is a sludge-drenched rocker that would arguably fit right in with Seemless' cannon....until the song shifts gears and floats upwards on somber notes of deep, clean, reverberations.
The winding ground-and-pound of the fantastic "Woman of Ill Repute" is a star-making track. Village of Dead Roads have obviously mastered the strong mix of dark lyrics, frantic yowls, and fist-pumping riffs. A glimmer of uplifting hope is given in some lighter passages towards the end, but all-in-all this is purist doom as the Gods created it oh so long ago. The split's last track, "Divine Mistake," is an rip-roaring opus. Oozing forth with a primal, ambient fuzz, the song slowly builds in intensity before crashing like a tempest upon the shore. The song seems to rile itself out, expend all it's energy kicking your sorry ass, then building up again for a much more punishing round two. I'd dare say this is the perfect song to close a doom album with.
With Human Failures, no one can really go wrong. You (the listener) have after all the best of both worlds. On the one hand, Spiritu plays joyous, trancey stoner rock that should bring a smile to anyone's face. For the heavier music fan, Village of Dead Roads will suffice excellently when it comes to wiping that smile off your face. The two styles complement each other perfectly, and when it comes to a doom/stoner split, few I've heard recently best this one. Though human Spiritu and Village of Dead Roads may be, failures they are not. I highly recommend this split.
1. The Ten of Seven Bell
2. Objects of Desire
Village of Dead Roads Half
5. Descendants of the Dendrites
6. Skin Prison
7. Woman of Ill Repute
8. Divine Mistake