Neither Jenks Miller nor Neill Jameson are known for playing black metal straight. Miller's Horseback, a fervent garden of lightning, has been the aural expression of his many musical passions, using Americana and black metal as part of a base for excursions into gnarly pyschedelic drone, doom, and blasted boogie. With Krieg, Jameson crafted raw, lo-fi American black metal with a caustic primitivism and a noisy streak. So it's somewhat surprising that Poison Blood, the first fruit of their collaboration of the same name, is so nakedly straightforward.
A dark and lo-fi exercise in mystic, minimalistic black metal, Poison Blood leans more toward Rise of the Imperial Hordes (Krieg's first and purest record), with Jameson howling and growling, spewing seething, distorted philippics over a heavy bed of punk sludge. But some of its exploratory filigrees make the record feel, in some ways, like an immediate successor to Horseback's Invisible Mountain. Poison Blood has a rawer feel than Invisible Mountain, but it's similarly strung-out and epic, albeit at much shorter run times. Drums hit full bore, but the blastbeats don't hit with machinic precision. They're remarkably loose and human, often to a great benefit. Guitars are dry but robust—blunter and with more body than the typically razor-sharp, treble-heavy black metal barrage.
The album's bookends come closest to capturing Invisible Mountain's textural development. Opener "The Scourge and the Gestalt" unfurls itself in waves of feedback and coasts on a crusty proto-metal groove before whipping into a frenzied rush. "Circles of Salt" is a majestic psychedelic dirge, and it's terrifying, with Jameson's backmasked rasps rushing past the listener like shrieking specters. This is where Poison Blood is strongest. These tracks expand outward; by contrast, the music they flank churns an endless pummel, a salvo of rage and frustration that's delivered with panache but ultimately feels enervating in its back half.
Still, Poison Blood, Miller has said, is meant to be an outlet for that more straightforward aggression, and the project isn't intended to be conceptual or intricate. It's fun to hear Miller and Jameson get gnarly, and Poison Blood satisfies that primal need. But with the musicians tempering their outre impulses in favor of something less complicated (though still entirely atypical of American black metal), one can't help but wonder if some greater opportunity was missed.