Split Cranium Up the Experimentalism and Atmosphere on 'I'm the Devil and I'm OK'
For their sophomore record, crust band Split Cranium inject a layer of experimentalism into their punk attitude to further elevate their sound.
I'm the Devil and I'm OK
25 May 2018
Aaron Turner (ISIS, Old Man Gloom) has worked multiple times with Finnish experimental rockers Circle. Through the various collaborations, excellent works of forward-thinking music have been produced, such as Enharmonic Intervals (For Paschen Organ). However, one of the strangest collaborations between the two is without doubt Split Cranium. It is not strange due to the adventurous outlook of the band, but rather because of its direct and straightforward style.
Split Cranium was born from Turner and Jussi Lehtisalo's admiration of punk and crust, and more specifically the Nordic d-beat scene, that featured extraordinary acts like Terveet Cadet and Anti Climex. And so Split Cranium came to be, and the band's self-titled debut album, featuring Jukka Kroger on drums and Samae Koskinen on bass, reveled in the chaos and anarchy of crust. Brutal and unyielding, the record was a fierce ride through Discharge-inspired grooves and Amebix-like structures. However, six years later the band returns and the vision for Split Cranium is extended further than its crust roots.
This is a more complete version of the band now, featuring more prominent members of the experimental extreme music scene. Nate Newton (Doomriders, Converge), Faith Coloccia (Mamiffer) and Tomi Leppanen (Circle) join Turner and Lehtisalo to open the next chapter in the band's discography. While the crust ferocity is still retained and can be felt through the majority of the record, the punk aesthetic is not the sole factor molding the core of this work.
The first definite steer for Split Cranium is their new found tendency to move towards a more ambient and experimental sound. It's not that the band will dive into long-form ambient tracks, but there is a strong sense of the atmospheric. The opening track kicks off in an almost Popol Vuh like fashion, introducing the keys that will play an important role in the album. "Evil Hands" then further explores the implementation of the keys within the main structures, something that is also apparent in "Heavy Daughter", which makes excellent use of bell sounds to elevate the track further.
Similarly, the album features a more enhanced influence of old-school '70s rock. There are moments where a creeping psychedelia comes forth, as is the case with "The Age of Embitterment", creating a mesmerizing oasis within the d-beat blitzkrieg. The lead work of the record also owes a lot to that mentality, adapting the modus operandi of that era to its crust progression. Even the metallic spirit of Newton's Doomriders makes an appearance in a couple of instances, most emphatically in "Wet Shadow". However, it is the experimental edge of all band members that makes this record a more well-rounded offering than Split Cranium's debut. By applying noise and taking advantage of feedback the band creates mind-bending moments, as is the case with the second half of "Ingurgitated Liquids". "Whirling Dusk" sees the band enhancing the animosity of the song structures by brilliantly injecting noise into them, while a full interlude, "Pain of Innocence", is solely dedicated to noise.
Regarding this album, Turner mentioned that Lehtisalo and himself wanted to try something different for their sophomore release, and move away from the straightforward sound of the debut album. The dichotomy that exists between the two, with Turner displaying an affinity for noise and dissonance while Lehtisalo generally prefers melody, creates a perfect contradiction in I'm the Devil and I'm OK. While the debut album was endearing in its simplicity, this release takes advantage of the line-up's full arsenal, and the result is that much more convincing.