'A Umbra Omega'
Release date: March 16th 2015
Roger Berzerk Fauske
The east of Norway again for my Nordic travels and to Oslo for Dødheimsgard. This is actually their first release since 2007s 'Supervillain Outcast' and as such is a much anticipated album. For those new to the band, a little background information will get you up to speed.
They have been around since 1994, initially as a black Metal band, a genre with more than its fair share of exponents in Norway. Fast forward a few years, five to be exact, to 1999 and their approach changed as they morphed into a style that has been called experimental extremism, avant-garde and a few other suitable titles, but you know how this industry loves its labels.
'The Love Divine' starts things and if you want experimental then look no further. It is very industrial and as an introduction (it comes in at a fraction over a minute long) works well to do what it sets out to do. There is a trend to separate the longer intros into being a standalone entity these days and I must say that in most cases I am all for it. And this is most definitely one of those cases.
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So to the first full length track, a piece called 'Aphelion Void'. And when I say full length, it is just over fifteen minutes long. Initial impressions of drama, pomp and modern operatic atmosphere reinforce themselves as the song progresses. If you throw in the expected industrial along with jazz fusion patterns, the result musically is more than interesting.
The vocals are full of vigour, intent and at times are downright nuts – and I mean that in a complimentary way. Intriguingly to my ears at any rate there is more than a little feel of a heavied up, industrialised version of the great Alex Harvey.
With a song this length you would be right in thinking there is a lot more than one level to it. About six minutes in it picks up pace, thundering drums, more gloom laden vocals, before it goes back down again but with the darker feel still present with a cool bass line running through it.
It moves through a more uplifting section, prog elements coming through, militarily precise cleaner drums accentuating it before again hitting the darker and heavier side, vocals especially delivered with much bravado and not a little terror. More changes follow, dipping back down into their impressive catalogue of dark slower tempo mood, only broken up by screaming drama fuelled vocals before it reaches its conclusion, slowing down to give it that one last shift. Impressive stuff, and it was that good the fifteen minutes flew by.
'God Protocol Axiom' is short in comparison, at only thirteen minutes long. Heavier guitar led beginnings, interesting drum patterns, more deliberation and intent in the vocals, changing melodic infusion behind it, again with a darker tinge to it all. Although there is at times a similar style vocal and feel to this as its predecessor, this one carries a lot more threat, anguish and demonic intrigue – I wouldn't advise the more nervous amongst you to listen to it alone in a darkened isolated dwelling... you will hear footsteps, I guarantee you.
Musically this is more direct, echoes of their blacker past, but there are so many different traces that different listeners will pick out. And it is that which again makes it a cut above similar attempts by other bands. All the sections fit together so well, chapters in the storytelling process, the music playing the part of the score but with more effectiveness even than if there were a film on top of it all. Another diamond.
'The Unlocking' again kicks in on the heavier side, raw piercing vocals that don't so much burrow their way into your psyche as brutalise it into submission. There are changes, differing mood projections musically and vocally, anthemic sections, and for those naysayers when it comes to this kind of thing, there are melodic interchanges a plenty.
The progression and telling of the tale is again superb, one part running smoothly into the next, rising and falling chopping guitar driving the whole track along in the mid-section, piano the well delivered foil. The grim vocals on top of just piano leave a more than impressive mark – one of those combinations you just have to experience to know how good it can be.
'Architect Of Darkness' carries on the theme, more to the extreme end of what people like to call experimentalism. The layered vocals, chants behind the main forceful expressions, are quite brilliant and perfectly proportioned into the mix, the chants carrying on behind the melody on their own to equal effect.
There is even a small symphonic section – think John William with a touch of Spanish sound – before the vocals again take centre stage, in turn giving way to more chants, which in turn... well you get the picture by now. As it powers its way towards the final chapter, pure driving metal takes over but if you thought that was that (after what has come before, why would you?), there is still time for one more subdued section.
So to the final act on this so far very impressive piece of work and 'Blue Moon Duel'. Another different beginning, straight in with raucous vocals, fast piercing guitar, rhythm to match. This has more of the black metal roots coming through, once more on top of atmospheric and inspiring instrumentation. This goes in a different direction, its quieter parts still filled with raucous and controlled chaotic feel.
That is until five minutes in when the tempo drops down, filling the air with ghostly and haunting echoes, before it comes firing back into life and just as your ears and mind get accustomed to that, more eeriness fills the void, this time with some delicate keys on top of it adding to the effect and all that leads into some nifty guitar work, the join again seamless before forceful vocals again punctuate the sound.
And that is the story of the final track in a nutshell but again it is a long one, fourteen plus minutes so you had better listen to it for yourselves rather than taking my word for it.
So there you have it and in a word it's damn good... yeah yeah, I know that was two words. The label experimental in a way does them an injustice as it makes it sound all rather random and in truth there is some very skilled songwriting on display on this album.
Everyone involved is also on the same page, or song sheet, which doesn't always seem apparent with this type of thing so it works on just about every level.
VICOTNIK - Guitar
ALDRAHN - Voice
L.E. MÅLØY- Bass
SEKARAN - Drums
THUNBERG - Guitar