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Ophthalamia is a fantasy world created by IT, of Abruptum, in 1989. All of the songs are connected to stories about this realm. A Journey In Darkness is the first Ophthalamia album and features the vocals of Jon Nödtveidt, of Dissection, listed here as Shadow. The album was recorded in early 1993, in Unisound Studios, and produced by Dan Swanö.
I stumbled across this album, in a used CD shop, several years back. I remembered reading that Jon Nödtveidt had been the vocalist, on one of the albums, and quickly gave this a listen. Indeed, I had discovered the one I'd read about and, being a huge Dissection fan, I bought the album. For some reason, my earliest expectations were that this would be, sort of, a Swedish counterpart to Burzum. I'm not sure where I got this idea (maybe the intro), but I was a little disappointed after listening to this for the first time. I played one of the songs on my radio show, a few weeks in a row, and then forgot all about the album. For years, it collected dust. It wasn't until this past Winter that I thought about Ophthalamia again and gave the album another chance. While freezing and reading about early Medieval history, I listened to this, over and over again. Once I'd finally given the album a chance, having no expectations, I found that it was quite enjoyable.
A Journey In Darkness is a very dark and gloomy album, possessing a lot of doom riffs, greatly inspired by Black Sabbath. It begins with "A Cry From the Halls of Blood / Empire of Lost Dreams", an intro piece that features an incredibly intense performance by Shadow. The melodic riff is almost depressive and the spoken words section builds in intensity until the vocalist seems overcome with emotion and screams from the very depths of his being.
The album carries a dark and mysterious atmosphere of melancholy and despair, yet also nocturnal beauty. The vocals of Jon Nödtveidt compliment the music, perfectly. He displays quite a bit of range, including some clean vocals and an eerie whisper, along with his usual style. The songs possess and epic feel, maintaining a certain amount of gloom, despite a few upbeat riffs and brief female vocals. It is difficult to choose the best songs as they are filled with so many different riffs and tempos. For the majority of the album, the songs are slower or mid-paced, though it does vary. Also of note is the relevance of the bass guitar, here. The album is filled with memorable riffs and melodies, throughout. One of my favorite riffs is a particularly miserable one, around the three minute mark, in "Castle of No Repair / Lies From a Blackened Heart".
The outro gives the feeling of being ripped away from this world, as if waking from a dream; a dream that felt more real than life, itself. As if the dream is where you belong and the life you are being pulled back into is a nightmare that cannot be escaped. A Journey In Darkness is epic and majestic Black Metal, with a very strong doom influence.
If you are fortunate enough to run across this album, make every effort to pick it up and give it a good listen. It is well worth the time and effort.
Originally written for the Rites of the Black Moon Webzine, Oct. 2008.
Even though they started out during the heyday of Scandinavian Black Metal, the Swedish group OPHTHALAMIA never got close to achieving the recognition they deserved. Starting out as a side-project by IT of ABRUPTUM-fame, their first full-length, "A Journey In Darkness", featured none other than Jon Nödtveidt on vocals, in between recording the masterpieces "The Somberlain" and "Storm Of The Light's Bane" with his main band DISSECTION. Are you excited yet? You should be.
The lyrical concept of OPHTHALAMIA, as with most of their aspects, was something quite out of the ordinary. Telling tales of a fantasy world bearing the same name, this is not your standard Satanic Black Metal band. Musically, "A Journey In Darkness" sees the band combining a raw Black Metal sound with a groove that would fit just as well on a Stoner Doom album, while Jon Nödtveidt's characteristically vicious vocals supplements the darkness. Thus we have a unique mix that's difficult to classify without resorting to ridiculously contrived sub-genres like "Melodic Black Epic Stoner Doom". It's progressive without being too complex, the production is clean and even allows the bass to show-off, and they've managed to find the perfect balance between the melodic and the raw.
If you're new to the music of OPHTHALAMIA, "A Journey In Darkness" is as good a starting point as any, and should not be overlooked by anyone who likes their Black Metal with a side-order of Doom. It's about time that this project gets the attention it never achieved all those years ago, even though it will be a posthumous honor.
(Online July 3, 2009)
Written for the Metal Observer
This CD is the real deal! many albums where you see members of great projects getting together it can lead to miracle or disaster and this one is not a dissapointment at all, it's not your every day black metal project.
The atmosphere of the music is very dark, gloomy and mysterious. from what I know about the Ophthalamia project; it's based on a fantasy land conceived by IT and this album will take you there and give you a good sense of what it's like to be there.
The guitars are very melodic and hypnotizing at times throughout the entire album, and it picks up with parts that very heavy and gloomy, almost even depressing at times but still maintaining it's initial element of mysteriousness which give life to Ophthalamia.
The bass is very present in the album, it makes many appearances over the guitar, and then blends right back in to give the music that "chuggy" doom sound.
The vocals done by the late Jon Nödtveidt of Dissection, give the right aggressive feel to the music, the entire recording of this album could not have been completed without the sound of his piercing vocals!
It's very clear that this project has influenced of Black Sabbath; that cannot be denied but they incorperate their own originality to give it that creepy Ophthalamian feel, it litterally takes you to where they want you to be.
This is just one of those albums you have to hear to believe, it's quite a memorable album, and would make a fine addition to any metal collection. it's gloomy, dark, heavy, melodic and has a very creepy edge to it! Other Ophthalamia releases are very good but not quite like this, this entire album runs very well and the musicianship is incredible, I strongly reccomend you give it a listen if you're able to locate a copy.