This album features members/ex-members of Isis, Old Man Gloom, Converge, Mamiffer, and Circle, (as well as others). The band play crusty d-beat hardcore punk, with a decidedly more simple and straightforward approach than a lot of the band members’ other projects.
Having said that, the album may be powered by a simplistic core of energetic punk, but there are other elements at play on this album too, including occasional keyboard, noise, and atmospheric elements.
The songs combine melodic noise with passionate vitriol, making for largely short and furious examples of aggressive punk, but done a little atypically.
The music on this release mixes blunt harshness with resplendent beauty. For example, on one hand you have the vocals, which are mainly belligerent, snub-nosed shoutgrowls, and the bulk of the rhythm guitars. On the other you have the synths, melodic leads, and the quite enjoyably adventurous bass. The drums are largely neutral, providing a driving backbone for the music. Of course, occasionally elements of the bass or guitars switch sides, as is their wont to do.
This juxtaposition of melody and severity is probably at the heart of these songs. Although many aggressive crust bands rely on a healthy melodic component, in Split Cranium’s music it really does sound like the two sides are at war, but have temporarily settled on an uneasy truce just long enough to give rise to the 28 minutes of material on I’m the Devil and I’m OK.
This tension between the different sides of the band creates daring, tentative music that you can imagine collapsing in on itself at any moment, either descending into a completely brutal pit of ugliness, or shedding its harshness and transforming into something light, breezy, and ephemeral.
Split Cranium have produced a collection of tracks that inject some much needed idiosyncrasy and character into a style that’s usually fairly standardised. It works very well indeed, and I’m the Devil and I’m OK is something you should definitely check out if you’re partial to a bit of crust, but don’t want to just hear the same thing regurgitated again and again. Split Cranium are doing their own thing with the style, and I rather like it.