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.


RingMaster 28/08/2012

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Over Your Threshold: Facticity

Facticity, the debut album from German progressive death metalers Over Your Threshold, is one of those intricate little beasts which need multiple ventures in its company to appreciate and discover all of its aural nooks and sonic crannies. It is a striking and adventurous release to occupy the senses with accomplished skill and strong invention. Personally it did not admittedly ignite a frenzy of adoration but without doubt made the hours in its company compulsive, refreshing, and ultimately rewarding.

Over Your Threshold was formed in 2006 by guitarists Lukas Spielberger and Leonhard P. With drummer Julian Matejka joining the following year the band started drawing attention with their live shows which saw them support the likes of Obscura, Deadborn and Hokum locally. Their self released debut EP Progress In Disbelief caught many an imagination in 2008 as the progressive infused death metal the band was exploring found more eager recipients. With bassist Christian Siegmund having joined in 2009, the quartet entered the studio in 2011 to record Facticity. The result a release which is a technical and aggressive storm which finds an equal balance to bruise and light up the ear with ease. With the added guest skills of Steffen Kummerer (Obscura, Thulcandra) and Jonas ‘JoeC’ Fischer (Hokum, Ex-Obscura) bringing their own craft to the album, it is a release of enterprise and passion. Since its recording Leonhard P has left the band to be replaced by guitarist Kilian Lau and new vocalist Ludwig Walter.

Released through Metal Blade Records, the album goes for the throat from the off with opener Cortical Blindness and its synapse juggling manipulations and ear plundering riffs. The track mesmerises and disorientates masterfully and though it emerges as not the heaviest assault to appear on the album, it is a challenging and satisfying introduction. The guitars and rhythms instigate whiplash at times but also ‘croon’ the senses into a gratified state with their blend of pace, energy, and intrigue. Immediately the song also reveals the stunning invention of bassist Seigmund. His fretless bass, additive lines and obvious skill a hypnotic conjuration, the work of a bedlam spawn predator with fine control and even deeper imagination.

The following Contextual Fluctuating and Obscure Mind Stasis bring darker shadows with their presence. The first is a blackened consumption which within its dazzling melodic weaves, has a menacing and corruptive heart. The second song has an even more malevolent breath to unsettle and taunt the ear but again the melodic soundscape of ideas and guitar is a flourishing shaft of warmth permeating the dark corners. The drums alongside the bass are ominous and commanding, framing all the impressive invention within their muscular arms tightly. It is a magnificent track which steals top honours, just.

As tracks like Self Exhibition, Body Part Illusion, and Antic, descend and feast the ear with excellent musicianship and unmistakable invention, Facticity only pleases more and more. There is never a moment one can sit back and just immerse within a song as there is so much going on, though never to excess. This means as mentioned earlier, many returns to the release are needed to fully grasp its wealth, the continued effort though always enjoyable and rewarding. The third of this trio of tracks is another exceptional song which lights up the air with its electric contagion. It offers the most intensity and threat to be found on the release, its heart snarling at the senses with a vicious hunger. As ever though, the melodic and startling progressive play is rife and magnetic within the sprawling oppressive weight.

Over Your Threshold have created an album which is immensely impressive and gratifying, though as mentioned for some reason it did not fire up enough passion to elevate it the highest plateaus of acclaim. But as that well used line goes, Facticity, it is not you it is me.


RingMaster 28/0/2012

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