This is an odd release in that Vinland Special Services and Cosmic Breath seem to have little in common. Vinland SS often changes things up on each of his releases to the point where I’m never sure what to expect, and on Hanoi Hilton/Five Pointed Snow Mound, Cosmic Breath gives us a lot of low and dirty black metal. There’s little meeting point between the two, except for the expressed fact that they both share affinity for H.P. Lovecraft (where “Five Pointed Snow Mound” gets its name).
Vinland Special Services’ side is subtitled “Hanoi Hilton,” and it’s a blend of odd instrumentation, vocal deliveries, and balladry. Some tracks are very sparse, opting for rhythmic loops instead of an onslaught of sound, like “American Nationalist Avant-Garde (Nothing is Just Music Anymore)”. “Hangman Hang Me High” begins with noise and morphs into a softly-sung ballad. There are piccolos that seek to mimic and also defile wartime nationalist songs. The one thing, however, that recurs most often is Vinland SS’s talk/sing delivery, and that may either charm or grate depending on the listener.
Cosmic Breath’s side is sub-titled “Five Pointed Snow Mound,” taken from H.P. Lovecraft and synthesized with black metal. “Worn Down to Nothing” is more of a noise jaunt than anything, with lots of samples that are mashed up into a looping rhythm; but Cosmic Breath moves away from harsh noise and sampling for a more black metal-oriented series of tracks starting with “Sleepless Dance of the Macabre.” These tracks are structured around the guitar parts instead of the common black metal blast beat; while the drums are here, they’re way, way down in the mix, which seems like a preference from Cosmic Breath instead of a recording issue. It allows him to add ambient textures to the songs, or spoken word moments (“Five Pointed Snow Mound”), or heavily-filtered vocals (“White Light From Above”) instead of the usual overwhelming battery of drums.
Both Vinland Special Services and Cosmic Breath deliver a very different experience on their sides, but it works in quite a few ways. And both sides have their own merits; while I found Cosmic Breath’s “Five Pointed Snow Mound” a little more enjoyable to listen to, what Vinland Special Services does on “Hanoi Hilton” is interesting as he destroys what should be nationalistic pieces.