RUNEMAGICK / LORD BELIAL, Doomed by Death (2002, Aftermath)
Including File > New, this cover could be made in Photoshop in five steps. File > New, gradient fill, paste skull, set layer blending options, insert text. If this took more than 15 minutes to create, it’s because the guy in one of the bands who made it had to download a cracked version of Adobe Creative Suite first. It could only have taken longer if the jawless skull had to be cut out of the cover to the Lunatics Without Skateboards, Inc. album. Which would be awesome.
I had never heard Runemagick before, and I’m not sure the track I listened to is actually from this split, but it’s the same song at least, and it’s not half bad! A sort of Candlemassy doom with death vocals and some interesting textural clean guitars. Color me surprised! Lord Belial I hadn’t heard since the late 90s, and I definitely didn’t care for them then, although a good friend of mine has a weakness for their debut album, which is pink. Again, I can’t be sure if the track I’ve heard is from this split (there are several versions of the song on YouTube, but none indicate this split as the provenance), and as with Runemagick, I’m pleasantly surprised at how listenable it is. From the cover, I expected this to be the worst sort of shit, but this is pretty well composed, mid-paced black metal, heavy on the atmospherics, with some great riffs and a really good solo. Sure, this sounds like dozens of other Swedish bands, and this style is not exactly in my wheelhouse, but I was hardly in a hurry for it to end. Both tracks are well produced (again, assuming I’m listening to the right ones) and good enough to make me think I should dig a little deeper into these bands’ discographies. The power of the skull works in mysterious ways!
— Friar Johnsen