Challenging, provocative, confusing, inspiring, innovative…
Review by Paul Castles
Release date: 16 March 2015
Dødheimsgard’s new album A Umbra Omega is fairly out of the ordinary even by the standards of these pioneering experimental extremists. When they emerged two decades ago, Dødheimsgard were initially roped in with all the other moody and mysterious brethren emanating from the dark corridors of the Norwegian underground. To further connect the formative DHG with the black metal scene we only have to look at their debut album which featured Fenriz of Darkthrone on bass. But while the Norwegian black metal badlands spawned Dødheimsgard it was not long before they evolved into something distinctly different from that, notably a more dissonant avante garde troop. If their last album Supervillain Outcast (2007) showed they were venturing down a path few had previously ventured, A Umbra Omega suggests they’ve strayed off the map entirely.
This is DHG’s fourth studio release and this psychedelic package is as visionary and as vibrant as anything that’s gone before. On the personnel front, A Umbra Omega marks the return to the ranks of original co-founding member Aldrahn (Thorns/The Deathtrip) picking up the mic in a mesmerizing marriage nestling comfortably alongside Vicotnik’s mindbending compositions. Aldrahn veers between pained barks and cries while at other times merely speaking the words over the top of rhythms and riffs that alternate between vibrant and vicious.
Dødheimsgard have always operated on the fringes of black metal, at times basking in the perverted glory of the dark arts whilst almost simultaneously distancing themselves from it with some elongated structure that appears to have no start and no finish. Conventions and tried and trusted templates don’t exist in the land of Dødheimsgard. Instead of rudimentary songs with verses and choruses and chugga chuga riffs, the weird and wonderful Norwegians tie themselves, and us, up in knots that a merchant seaman would struggle to unravel.
To give this some perspective, the songs, or to be a tad more accurate, compositions, usually stretch to around 15 minutes. But while a doom band may countenance songs of similar length, this can often be built around a single riff or extended movement. With Dødheimsgard the quarter of an hour trip, which this is in every sense, can touch more points of the musical compass than a lost explorer whose down to his last supply of rations.
The six tracks that make up A Umbra Omega take about 70 minutes to listen to, but listen to it properly you must. This isn’t background music. It envelops you and forces you to focus. Even then some of its many layers are likely to be lost the first few listens. But once you begin to come to terms with these carefully constructed channels a little light is switched on, becoming brighter, until you’re almost blinded by its brilliance. Vicotnik is the father figure with DHG, and his thumbprint is stamped on every tortured twist and turn, with the album mastered at Strype Audio in Oslo by Tom Kvålsvoll.
Discounting the brief intro, ‘Aphelion Void’ is the first full number and what an extraordinary piece it is, a smorgasbord of sounds that seem distant and different but yet ultimately piece together seamlessly. There are some corrosive blastbeats at one point on the following ‘God Protocol Axiom’ but delve deeper and there’s hints of jazz and piano wrapped up in the maelstrom too. ‘Architect of Darkness’ is sublime and something of a melancholic masterpiece with Aldrahn’s lyrical input bordering on the theatrical with its outrageously provocative tones. Closer ‘Blue Moon Duel’ is more sinister, choral background harmonies flicker in between which Aldrahn croaks out a savage sojourn infested with crippling despair. A Umbra Omega is far from being a conventional metal album. It challenges and provokes and confuses, often at the same time. It is, though, incredibly inspiring and innovative.
9 out of 10
- The Love Divine
- Aphelion Void
- God Protocol Axiom
- The Unlocking
- Architect of Darkness
- Blue Moon Duel