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Opera IX - Back To Sepulcro

Opera IX
Back To Sepulcro
by Anton Sanatov at 04 April 2016, 5:38 PM

Dust the flames off my shoulders; I've just come back from hell… Ok, perhaps I may have simply rubbed shoulders with a few cloaked occultists at a séance - all in the name of music - but I am quite sure that there was a point when the ground split open ever so slightly and a few drops of flammable bile may have spat out onto my jacket. What I am so illustriously trying to acknowledge here is that listening to OPERA IX's latest black metal production "Back To Sepulcro" was certainly an experience; polarising as it was. After lending an ear to a copious amount of metal's more diabolical offerings, one becomes somewhat accustomed to the shock value that comes with the subject matter; and such adaptation can become a useful tool in separating blood from the water. For when you come across a record that can still make you yearn for the comforts of a Church, you know you shouldn't abandon all hope just yet.

"Back To Sepulcro" is a highly atmospheric record. The haunting auras are abundant and the satanic chanting will have you chugging Holy water in between tracks. Yet what is most surprising about this album is that beyond all the compulsory thematic traits of the given genre, there is a hard-hitting, heavy slab of pure metal underneath it all. The band does a very fine job of blending their instrumental contributions so as to create an entity with every song. Unfortunately this "wholeness" of sound is often interrupted by disorganised tempo shifts, which only make the songs loose their momentum - as it happens on the lengthy album opener "Sepulcro". That being said, when the band gets their skeletal hands on a tangible groove, they ride it hard, and end up spewing some very tasty sludge, as is evident on "Act 1, The First Seal" and the album highlight "Consacration", an eerie offering of heavy doom that is so incredulously enchanting that you may find yourselves an unwitting participant in some pagan ritual before the record is through.

Whilst the song writing is questionable - much due to the aforementioned instability in the structure of the songs - the shifts in tone do set a ritualistic ambiance - as if presenting various stages in a liturgy - and even soar to some quite thrilling compositional highs as is showcased in the powerful coda of "The Oak". The production values too are very decent - which is rather atypical of such a selective genre - and serve to give the listeners a further incentive to give the record some attention.

Yet the strength of the album and its startling appeal lie with the vocals of Abigail Dianaria, who so methodically assumes the role of a wicked priestess that you often begin to wonder whether it is all just an act. Abigail manages to infuse her growls and sinister spoken passages with enigmatic charisma (reminiscent of ARCH ENEMY's former lead Angela Gossow) and takes command of the songs with her brutal delivery and intense commitment like a true Goddess of the underworld. Her presence on the record contains a strong, darkly sexual, supernatural power that will retain listeners under its spell even if the music begins to loose its hold.

Black metal is not for everyone, and whilst "Back to Sepulcro" may be no different, it possesses a specific, unexpected allure that may even garner the genre some new followers. It is an interesting listen and should provide both fans and seekers of the exotic with an entertaining glimpse into the underworld.

Songwriting: 6
Originality: 7
Memorability: 8
Production: 7
 

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Sepulcro
2. The Oak
3. Act 1, The First Seal
4. Maleventum
5. Consacration
6. The Cross
Lineup:
Ossian – Guitars
Abigail Dianaria – Vocals
Alexandros – Keyboards
m:A Fog – Drums
Scùrs – Bass
Record Label: Dusktone Records
     


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Edited 21 November 2019
 

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