Now this is the shit I like to see. A split with a band I love matched with a band I don’t know, but also fall for along the journey. This is a primary function of splits - hook people with one band, introduce fans to another - a tried and true tactic that’s more viable than ever in the age of Bandcamp. The sky’s the limit as well, though the best splits have stylistic and/or thematic commonality between participants that make it make sense.
In the case of Brothers in Christ, it links up Oklahoma City dingy death grungers Chat Pile hot off the heels of their exemplary 2022 album God’s Country, and Kansas City noise rockers Nerver recovering from their own acclaim of 2022’s CASH album. I missed the latter because, well, I didn’t know about Nerver until now. After running this split EP a few times, it’s apparent I’ve been missing the hell out.
Nerver lead the EP off with two tracks, both acutely locomotive in their movement and energy, unstoppable and dirty as if powered by coal and burping blackened clouds into the already crippled atmosphere. The KCMO band seems to like it rough and raw, an endearing take on modern rock that reflects the unhinged reality we live in where even the sharpest satire battles for attention among the actual chaos.
“Kicks in the Sky” is loud and catchy, channeling the punkier side of a band like WHORES. and the stoner proclivities of a group like Sandrider, one of my all-time favorites. Vocals are bellowed, guitars are sludgy, bass shakes beneath your feet, and drums splash with an intensity that threatens you with tinnitus. “The Nerve” is much faster without becoming upbeat - there’s a rough, dense malaise throughout the whole EP, something fans of either band could probably anticipate from miles away. On this track, it’s ferocity that takes precedence over the more calculated, boiling antagonism that reigns on the first. A wonderful showing all around that gets the head nodding.
Chat Pile enter with “King”, a song that sounds as rusted and decrepit as anything off of God’s Country, but it’s got this neat little swinging melody to it that’s almost danceable if it weren’t for the maddened vocal refrains of “what’s the meaning of this?” and “I don’t want you to know” (apologies if I misquote). It’s practically triumphant for Chat Pile standards, but there’s still an arresting dark energy engulfing this track. That goes double for “Cut” which is abysmally cathartic, muted of color and drab in its finish. The video for the track matches this sonic aesthetic well, the bloodletting from palms representing that loss of color and scenic shots portraying Oklahoma’s suburbia as a soul-stealing, sinister lich of capitalism that delivers only woe and dread. Spot on depiction if you’re savvy to that region.
At around 15 minutes, flaws are nearly impossible to find in Brothers in Christ. Chat Pile represents themselves perfectly with these two elite tracks that offer a lot of dire emotionality that fans will love. Nerver, though just formally introduced to me here, pack a hell of a punch and take a more straightforward, aggressive route with their music - a great stylistic foil to Chat Pile’s unpredictability - but you still get the sense that things are far from okay. It’s a delectably rotten Midwestern pre-apocalypse painted by two forerunners of the depression noise rock circuit, tailormade to relate to the times and the generations caught spinning down the drain of the world’s shit-stained toilet with no custodian in sight.
Bottom line: this is about as solid as splits get. Two great bands meeting minds, finding common ground, and executing at as high a level as they can. Brothers in Christ is wickedly good, addictive, and stews in pain. You likely won’t find either band’s best work here, but if you love profoundly dismal heavy music and somehow haven’t heard of these bands, this is your starter kit to the downer party. Don’t be a wallflower now.