As we approach the winter solstice and the nights get longer and colder, so too should our doom metal songs. It's part of what helps me deal with end-of-year stress: long and properly harrowing tracks can drown out and erode worries. Hipoxia and Ballard, two Spanish bands of the doom/sludge/drone variety, have teamed up to provide a split consisting of two of these mighty mind-wipers—divided between Hipoxia's delirious genre cocktail and Ballard's crushing sludge-attuned exploration of doom and drone, the split offers two 14+ minute songs that ought to give the brain a brief respite from the ever-present suffering of reality, albeit by constructing their own perilous reality. But at least the turbid realms of this split ask nothing from the listener, doling out long-form expressions of hypnotic tone worship with no additional considerations. Stream both sides of the split below and let Hipoxia and Ballard air out your skull for the next half-hour.

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Hipoxia's half of the split, "False Destiny," is a dreamy ascent up an increasingly perilous slope. Fuzzy riffs laconically slide from note to note, whistling melodies and swelling synthy tones conjure up dizzying swirls, and the harsh vocals echoing in the midst of it, as if from the center of the fogginess, are a hint at more treacherous times to come. The song continues to escalate as grimy riffs clash with thoughtful lead lines, finally culminating in a whirlwind of blast beats and chaotically conflicting melodies. Everything hinted at up until this point, nightmares and dreams alike, collide, lashed together in a writhing mass. It's hard to pick apart what's going on in the conclusion, and the madness seems like it can only last so long before collapsing into inanity—and just before it passes that perceived threshold, it does.

Hipoxia's feverish clouds break, but the grey sun that shines on Ballard's half of the split is cold and uncaring. "Atraganto" looks at the fields of sludged-out doom and drone as a single continuum, two extremes on an axis, and marches the listener along a carefully-laid path between these realms. At the drone extreme, where the song opens, long-winded notes stretch on for so long that they eventually resolve into ringing feedback, sneaking up in volume before a new note finally banishes it. With the encouragement of choked-out vocals, drum beats hack away at this ponderous tempo, hewing away with every snare, kick, and full-force hi-hat bash. They succeeding at elevating the tempo twice: first, in the midsection of the song where the guitar chords briefly block out a primal doom rhythm that inspires one to find some drywall to punch or something, and secondly at the end of the song where spoken-word audio samples kick off a faster-paced freakout of an ending.

Like any good split, there's significant differences between the sides, but also common ground—the split's two songs experiment with using discordance in tempo and genre as a tool for escalation. Neither starts all too menacingly, and both seem clear-cut from a genre perspective, but their long runtimes introduce a lot of doubt into that before concluding with disorderly upheavals. I can't say I understand a word of the lyrics, but there seems to be a common pattern of growing tension and utter disappointment—and the last two years of COVID-related show cancellations have definitely made that relatable.

Hipoxia comments on "False Destiny":

In this track a variety of elements can be found: drone/funeral doom parts, psych stuff, moments of unexpected violence and quickness, synthesized parts, etc. All of it with an industrial halo.

Ballard comments on "Atraganto":

It’s a more doom based song than we are used to. We wanted to mix two ways/influences that are fundamental to us: The Burning Witch/Khanate way and the Whitehouse/Consumer Electronics way.

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The Hipoxia/Ballard split releases this Thursday, December 16th via Cain Records and Conjuro Records. Pre-order it at Hipoxia's Bandcamp page and Ballard's Bandcamp page.