Ophidian I: Solvet Saeclum

Technical death metal is having an impressive flourish of releases right now with already the outstanding new album from The Faceless and the excellent more progressively toned release from Over Your Threshold having enthralled the ear these past few weeks. Now there is a third to excite and intrigue the debut album from Icelandic metalers Ophidian I. Though it feels like an apprentice alongside the two mentioned in some ways, Solvet Saeclum is an impressive and powerful release exuding great promise and dealing in nothing but satisfaction. The album takes no prisoners but once within its muscular grip, its nine tracks light up the senses with skill and enterprising invention. Arguably it is not bursting with the most groundbreaking sounds but it is hard to fault its imagination and passion.

Formed in 2010 and featuring members of Severed Crotch, Beneath, and Angist, Ophidian I were soon in the studio recording demo tracks, the band returning to Studio Sýrland in Iceland for the recording of their album the following year alongside Jóhann Ingi (Beneath). The band signed with Russian record label SFC Records the same year as plans were laid for their debut to be unleashed in 2012. Now it is here, it is an album which shows all the rewards of hard work and intricate detail, its sound a compulsive consumption which leaves sonic trails in the air with its melodic technicality and bludgeons flesh through aggressive intensity.

The release opens with the guitar fingering of Mark Of An Obsidian, its introduction a slow tease upon the ear and a breath which is warm and welcoming. As the guitars unveil their sonic heart the track evolves into a surging onslaught of barbaric riffs and combative rhythms. Drummer Tumi is a storm of crippling beats whilst bassist Þórður prowls the track with an evil glint to his play, both combining to bring a menace and depth to the expressive technical skill of guitarists Símon and Unnar. With the vocals of Ingó a guttural fury throughout song and album, it is a mighty confrontation the band offer behind its progressive artistry, though the song does not explore this element as much as later tracks do but still offers a mesmeric heat within the sprawling oppressive energy.

Shedyet followed by the title track, both stretch themselves more than their predecessor as the band get into their creative stride. The first of the pair surges between rampant attacks and dazzling prog lilted asides which make seamless and evocative interludes between the overall enveloping tempests of intensity. It is a beast on the prowl despite its eager attacks whereas the following Solvet Saeclum leaps at the senses with an incessant eagerness and sharp ideation to ensure nothing but focus and interest in its direction.

All the songs are strong and inventive brutes but the trio of Tectonic Collapse, Ellipse, and Ethereal Abyss, stand apart from the others. The first is a serpentine violation which festers within the senses with corrosive inventiveness. It is abrasive and disorientating through its ravenous intense energy and heady melodic conjurations, the guitars twisting the air with ingenious blackened skill and mischief whilst the rhythms chew on the ear with unrelenting aggression. It is the outstanding track on an impressive album though the other pair are not left wanting in their effectiveness. Ellipse is a technical mischief to excite and ignite the heart whilst Ethereal Abyss is a song with a maelstrom of flavours to its glorious body, its death cored heart veined with jazz and progressive essences which entwine around a black metal groove. Arguably it is the most inventive song on Solvet Saeclum and only enhances the deep promised the band and release inspire.

Solvet Saeclum is a great release which fans of the likes of The Faceless, Necrophagist, and Obscura will lap up. Ophidian I may not have reached the top rung with their album but with a release this strong it is certainly on the cards at some point.

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RingMaster 28/08/2012

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