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A Journey in Darkness - 93%

Noctir, January 31st, 2010

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.