Review Summary: Short, sweet, and intense, the self-titled debut of Split Cranium is a satisfying, albeit unoriginal, collection of blistering crust punk.
When post-metal giants Isis
amicably decided to part ways in June 2010, it was assumed by most everyone with any knowledge of its members that their musical careers were far from over. Frontman Aaron Turner alone has been involved with nine side projects to date, ranging from dark ambient to black metal to industrial, while other members also find themselves participating in a slew of seemingly unrelated projects. As such, it came as no surprise when the formation of a new supergroup headed by Aaron Turner called Split Cranium
was first announced. What was a surprise to some, however, was the form this band took: while most projects with any relation to isis
tend to fall somewhere within the realms of avant-garde music, the last thing many expected the mastermind behind an excessive amount of ambient ventures to turn to was something as conventional, blistering, and - most of all - to the point
as the self-titled debut of Split Cranium
. Over eight tracks, ranging from one to eight minutes in length, this supergroup bashes skulls, riffs hard, and generally goes for an approach less subtle than anything in the entirety of Turner's career.
The performances, while not bearing a level of technicality that would be worth writing home about, are perfect for what Split Cranium
are going for here. Speedy, face-melting, and catchy crust punk riffing dominates the music, accentuated by a spirited drum performance from Jukka Kröger and an abundance of those signature half-shouted, half-growled vocals that have been appearing less and less frequently ever since Celestial
was released in 2000. In fact, the vocals are an obvious high point on Split Cranium
: frenzied, forceful, and emotional, this is the best Turner has sounded in a long time. On eight-minute album closer 'Retrace the Circle,' the most experimental song on an otherwise conventional record, his distinct cleans even make an appearance, giving this album highlight a feel much closer to what a listener would expect from this album going in blind. It's also worthy of mention that Split Cranium
is made even better by a characteristically exceptional production job courtesy of Kurt Ballou, serving to give the album a welcome boost in intensity. Of course, it is not without its flaws. Songs and riffs blend together quickly after a few listens, and the reverb and delay-drenched vocals that rear their head in otherwise-excellent songs like 'Sceptres to Rust' are completely unnecessary, bordering on annoying. However, these flaws are outweighed by this album's many strengths. Split Cranium
is short, sweet, old-school, and blistering, but more than anything, it's a remarkably fun
album that completely successfully pulls off what its creators certainly strived to achieve. One can be sure that, with a bit more focus and experimentation, Split Cranium
can make something truly exceptional the next time around, but for now we are left with a more-than-satisfying debut that bashes more skulls than anyone could have ever expected.