Album Review: Albatross/Vestal Claret Split [10 out of 10]

By Andrew Bansal

Having developed an appreciation for Indian horror-themed heavy metal band Albatross after listening to their 2010 debut EP “Dinner Is You”, and having kept an eye on their activities for the past couple of years, I’m excited to get a chance to review their follow-up release, a split album with Connecticut-based occult/doom metal band Vestal Claret. In essence, it’s a combination of Albatross’ “Kissing Flies” EP and Vestal Claret’s 17-minute track “Black Priest”. It’s a very apt pairing, because it brings together two bands that have similarities as well as differences when it comes to their musical styles and themes.

Albatross’ EP constitutes the first part of this album, and the opening track “Wither” sets the mood perfectly. It goes along excellently with the story upon which Kissing Flies is based, and it successfully creates the scene in the listener’s mind, the scene of a decaying town tormented further by demonic flies. “Uncle Sunny At The Tavern” is a sinister tune that keeps the atmosphere intact, while also presenting forth some true heavy metal goodness that instantly reminds me of legends like Judas Priest and King Diamond, and even a touch of German power metal. These traditional metal elements in the tune give me insanely large amounts of joy, and guest vocalist Niklas Stalvind from Wolf adds further by lending his Scandinavian flavor to it.

Next up, the incredibly dynamic 10-minute title track demonstrates every single facet of Albatross’ musicianship, and clearly showcases the band’s songwriting prowess. Musically, there’s something in it for just about everybody, and even though I enjoy the song as a whole, I do find Dr. Hex’s bass segment to be my favorite part. The music is simply fantastic, but besides that, the tune has its fair share of goofiness, which makes it all the more endearing.

The Albatross part of the album ends with “From Ashes Comes Life”, another brilliantly crafted piece of music which ensures that the EP will create an unmistakably great impression in the minds of fans, critics and first-time listeners alike. Besides the Wolf frontman, Murari Vasudevan from Rat King and the one and only Demonstealer have also made great contributions as guest vocalists. Overall, I would describe Albatross’ “Kissing Flies” as a mind-blowing 19-minute musical masterpiece, and I’m extremely proud to see an Indian band come up with an EP such as this one.

Vestal Claret’s “Black Priest” is the other half of this split release. Honestly, this is one band I previously knew nothing about, and didn’t quite know what to expect. But once I listened to this track, it instantly converted me into a fan of the band. Their approach to musicianship utilizes the marriage between occultist lyrical themes and old school blues rock/doom metal. The track consists of three distinct passages wherein one flows into the next beautifully, and keeps the listener glued to it throughout. This band has not only proved themselves through this song, but has also done the occult doom genre proud. It’s been in existence for the past four decades through bands like Coven, Black Sabbath, St. Vitus and the likes, and as long as talented groups like Vestal Claret continue writing such breathtaking tunes, it will always be in existence.

All in all, this split release is worth your money, and then some.

Rating: 10/10

Record Label: Roadcrew
Release Date: March 31st 2012

Track Listing:
01. Albatross – Wither
02. Albatross – Uncle Sunny At The Tavern
03. Albatross – Kissing Flies
04. Albatross – From Ashes Comes Life
05. Vestal Claret – Black Priest