Review: The Human Condition / The River – Split EP

Hot on the heels of The River‘s fourth full-length A Hollow Full Of Hope, came this split release with The Human Condition for which both bands recorded one brand new song and one older song live in the studio. Apologies need to be extended to both for not covering it at the time but thankfully Christmas and New Year are well and truly behind us and I have had more capacity to do so now. 

The Human Condition / The River – Split Artwork
The Human Condition / The River – Split Artwork

The River have been a mainstay of yours truly ever since I started writing for The Shaman. The Bromley quartet Jenny Newton – vocals/guitars/strings/keys, Christian Leitch – guitars, Stephen Morrissey – bass and Jason Ludwig on drums were among the first bands I reviewed. So as the more familiar of the two, let’s start with them. 

Recent years have seen The River grow from their crushingly heavy roots into something more nuanced and experimental, which may cause some to question whether they can even be labelled ‘doom’ anymore. Dry Mountains Burn will not appease the purists, but as someone who couldn’t give a hoot about rigid genre conformity, I love the band’s ongoing increased confidence and fearlessness in establishing their own sound and identity. Lighter in tone with strings and keys in tow, if there’s any doom left then it has to do with the raw emotion on display along with slowcore vibes ala Low, this is a fantastic track.

The live version of Passing (which originally featured on 2019’s Vessels Into White Tides) is the band’s second and last contribution and is also not the first time they have reworked this song as an abridged version exists on 2020’s Violet Violent Sine Waves acoustic EP. As one of my favourite tracks by the band, I’m always happy to hear alternate interpretations and this stripped back version has more of an improvisational quality that keeps you hooked in terms of its sonic journey. Freddie Mercury once said that Queen try to mix it up live to make it more interesting for the audience and that’s exactly what The River have accomplished here.

An excellent split release that did exactly what it’s meant to, confirming my love of one band while introducing me to another…

The Human Condition, who are based in Macclesfield, formed in 2010 and are comprised of former The River member Jonathan Gibbs on drums, Kieron Tuohey – guitar, Russ Vasey – guitar, bassist Nick Brookes and vocalist Nathan Harrison. Not quite as prolific as The River, this is the band’s first proper release since 2015’s full-length debut Pathways.

Mirrors starts in a thunderous fashion with some quite meaty Iommi style riffing and rich operatic vocals that remind you of Candlemass’ Messiah Marcolin and Solitude Aeturnus’ Robert Lowe. The track has an epic flavour and despite not being the biggest ‘prog’ fan in the world, the introspective lyrical themes, that according to the promo notes, focus on ‘a soaring call to arms exploring self-reflection’ help keep it grounded. A promising start.

End Of Man (live) is significant as the first song the band ever wrote and which had not seen the light of day, until now. Off the bat there was a detectable Type O Negative gothic metal influence present with vocals recalling Pete Steele, and the track reminded me of that band’s October Rust period; maybe even a little death doom era Paradise Lost thrown in too. The heaviest track on the EP it made for a nice change in tempo.

The phrase better late than never comes to mind and I’m glad I got to finally review. An excellent split release that did exactly what it’s meant to, confirming my love of one band while introducing me to another. Highly recommended.

Label: Cavernous Records
The Human Condition: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram
The River: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram