This is the last thing I was expecting to come out of France. Pardon my American post-9/11 small-mindedness, but after two years in high school and a year in college studying the language and culture I expected any band out of France to feature a hurdy-gurdy player over a lame techno beat with lyrics focusing on "pain," "le comptoir" or "le magasin." Although this has become something of a theme in my reviews, my initial expectations were once again overturned and this split between French screamo (`90s style like Waiffle or Pg. 99, not the mall variety) bands Brume Retina and Hiro turns out to be something I can really get into.

Brume Retina leads with off with four tracks that rely heavily on atmospherics with cool drum grooves and evocative guitar parts sometimes reminiscent of Fugazi's moments of quiet tension. This alternates with thick bursts of emotional heaviness with low-mixed shouted vocals. The lyrics are (thankfully) written and performed in French with English translations that unsurprisingly don't translate well but center around personal despair and leftist political ideology. At their best the atmospheric qualities mix with the raw heaviness and they produce a desperate but enjoyable sound.

Hiro is more of the rager of the two bands, showcasing a more straightforward approach with solid vocals and some big riffs. Their tracks lead off with a sinister sample from a French film and some old Converge-esqe guitar chord meandering with the singer's Guy Piccioto-styled slur before a simple but powerful stoner riff barrels in. Hiro shows some sophistication here by building on the riff without taking away from its initial vibe before ultimately giving it up for a fast and discordant ending. Their next track continues in a harder direction with some huge guitar parts and the singer shows off a nice open scream. This track features a few tempo changes and is slightly reminiscent of the Hope Conspiracy's latest album, Death Knows Your Name, while still maintaining a sense of discordance. The lyrics are once again in French, but with explanations in English rather than translations and interestingly feature a song about Jim Jones' Peoples' Temple cult.

I enjoyed this split when listening without giving my full attention, but upon a close inspection I enjoyed it immensely. Both bands are solid, but if splits are a competition, then I have to give Hiro the edge. I highly recommend this release for fans of `90s screamo.