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Originally released in 1995, Ophthalamia went either under the radar or over the heads of most people around the time, possibly down to the fact that the music they created was just too different when compared to the band members other bands. Yes, Ophthalamia were somewhat of a Swedish super group, with Tony ‘IT’ Särkkä from Abruptum being the main mastermind behind the band and its lyrical topics which revolve around the fantasy world created by him, known as (surprise surprise) Ophthalamia.
Also featuring on this album in particular is former Edge of Sanity drummer Benny Larsson, former Marduk front man Legion and Emil Nödveidt of Swordmaster (brother of Dissection’s Jon Nödveidt, who himself appeared on Ophthalamia’s debut ‘A Journey into Darkness’). As I mentioned above, the music on show here is a world apart from the music created in any of the member’s main projects. Ophthalamia is just so… weird for want of a better word. They incorporate a hell of a lot into their sound, be it the long prog rock song arrangements, the strange, off kilter jazzy melodies or the sudden, angular Voivod styled riffs or touches of Sabbath here and there. These don’t always sit too well on the ear, especially when you consider the fact that it’s all being topped with Legion’s steel lung blasting. Let’s just say that it’d be a bit more than a push to try to tag this with any sort of musical genre label.
Having only heard the bands debut before this (which was an equally challenging listen), I’d have to say this is slightly the better of the two albums. With that said however, being brutally honest, a lot of the album is pretty damn patchy and just too out there for most people to wrap their heads around. There are certainly parts that are worthy of praise too (mostly the quirky folk parts they occasionally launch into I’d say), but it often comes off as a bit of a long, drawn-out jumble of styles and influences. It seems as if the band members wanted to live out their every guilty musical pleasure all at once (something they weren’t allowed to even dream of in their main projects).
With its downfalls outweighing the highlights, I wouldn’t recommend this even to the most ardent of supporters of any of the band member’s main projects. Ultimately, ‘Via Dolorosa’ will go down in history as a bloated, over-cooked musical affair that just doesn’t fulfil many requirements other than the band members own whims.
Originally written for www.metalteamuk.net
With their second album, It (ABRUPTUM) and his OPHTHALAMIA-project further developed the oddball-sound of "A Journey In Darkness", pushing hard against the boundaries of what is accepted in Black Metal circles. Bringing in Legion (who later departed to MARDUK) to take Jon Nödtveidt's place behind the microphone, and Emil Nödtveidt (who later formed DEATHSTARS), "Via Dolorosa" also saw the band bring out heavy influences from Jazz and Progressive Rock.
For those of us who don't mind catchiness and uplifting hooks in our Black Metal (which I use as a loose term in this context), "Via Dolorosa" is a garden of unearthly delights. The lead guitar constantly keeps bringing in new melodies and often quite complex structures, which at its most basic sounds reminiscent of DISSECTION, but when it peaks sounds like nothing you've ever heard before. The bass and drums are pushed back in the mix, which makes this one of the most blatantly guitar-driven Extreme Metal albums I've ever had the pleasure of hearing. The band keeps pulling off strange twists and turns, but by coming so far from the left-field their quirkiness becomes a strength rather than a hindrance. Legion's raw growls are complimented with soft whispers, and the somewhat awkward female vocals from "A Journey In Darkness" have pleasantly disappeared.
The kvlt kids can sit in mom's basement decrying this strange album as "gay" or "sell-out" all they want, but the truth of the matter is that OPHTHALAMIA makes no compromises with their completely unmatched sound. If this album was originally released in 2009, it would doubtlessly be tagged as "avant-garde", paving the way for later jazzy Black Metal endeavors. "Via Dolorosa" is an immensely welcome fresh breath of air in the thick smog that genre purists keep getting their upturned noses stuck in.
(Online November 6, 2009)
Written for the Metal Observer
Strange. That is the only way I can describe this album. All the members are well-know for their other activities and here they are, collaborating with each other. How this is possible is beyond me, but they did it. And pretty good too!
I wouldn’t call this Metal, though. Avant-garde rock perhaps and definitely not Black Metal. The guitar melody sounds quite beautiful and harmonic, even (oh, dare I say it…) happy at times. Legions trademark voice and the dark lyrics betray some of the members background. Other than that I don’t see anything remotely evil or grim about this band. IT shows that he is a musical genius with an endless succession of leads. And the riffs… ehm, what riffs? You mean the strumming of powerchords? I could hear perhaps one or two of those. All the rest is just single-string melody with the bass underneath playing the alternative melody.
The big minus of this album is the drums. No punch, hardly any passion and a weak sound. I suspect Ophthalamia wanted to be jazzy and freaky in there effort, but they lack the swung for such enterprises.
There is, however, an interesting side to this album. It showcases the Swedish sound as it was in the mid-nineties. Somewhere one can identify some Dissection in the succession of notes and even a hint of old, nay, ancient Marduk.
Overall, I like it. It isn’t breath-taking, awe-inspiring, relaxing or even pleasant (the endless leads can be quite a pain in the rear end sometimes), but I like it. It is definitely worth listening.
Alright, here we go. I heard a lot about this album for many years, so just recently I decided to pick it up. As the first track starts I begin to think, oh man what have I done, I had forgotten that Legion (Vocals) is present on this album. Which isn't exactly bad, but I have always been somewhat turned off by his style from listening to Marduk. Anyway it starts off with a somewhat pleasent acoustic based intro with spoken word over top which drifts into a melody played by Emil Nodtveidt and into the second track. So this is where the album actually starts and I immediately notice how clean the production is. I guess for this style of music; that basically consists of folk rock grooves laden with progressive jazz melodies, it is acceptable. However I thought it could have been much more interesting if they had layered some guitars behind all or at least some of the constant melodies. This is not the case though, so that's why the production kind of bugs me, well that and the fact that the bassist just follows the guitarist for the most part. Now with that aside I try to just focus on the actual music, which isn't all that bad, but I found it somewhat repetitive and bland. This in part could be because of drumming, the job is done however this too is somewhat basic. The album has some good tracks such as the third passage entitled "After a Releasing Death/Castle of No Repair(Part II)" This started to pick up my hopes after being somewhat dissapointed with the first couple tracks. It gives the album a sense of movement because it is a very straight forward again melody based groove. Perhaps because this track is pretty good it gives the rest of the album a sort of stagnant feel. Afterwards they try some funk/rock oriented breakdowns, which to me come off rather cheesy. I don't see a lot of variation and thus give the album a mediocre, however better than average score for originality. This is just my opinion, other's may like to hear a bunch of guitar riffs, but personally I like to hear good song structure and writing, not fancy lick after fancy lick. If you are into the Swedish sound ala Opeth/Dissection most likely you will enjoy this. Warning!....... This is not black metal, so find some mp3's before the thought of purchasing this.
PS The title is in reference to how the album makes me feel. It's like being in a tiny boat floating around the sea and starving to death in the end, ah so bleak it is.
Alls here that you would expect from a prominent band from the mid 90s Swedish BM scene. This album is a long, progressive rock based, metal record with a strong ensemble of musicians and creativity. Humorously inside the insert they send- " a big fuck off to count grishnackh (cunt krishna)....We'll Get You "- revealing alittle of where they stand, and saying something about the scene, and time this record was released.
Of the ten tracks, the tenth song being a true Mayhem cover and the nineth (A Lonely Ceremony / The Eternal Walk) being a re-recorded version of an older track not intended for the release, every song,...let me repeat, every song is great (IMO). There are many strong points where the bands technical abillities shine forth, ( i.e. A Winterlands Tear or Black as Sin, Pale as Death) and a general nack for well arranged vocal patterns that just flow. Large amounts of harmonies, leads, and just all around great riffs are present here.
I really wouldnt say that this band is very similiar to any other bands, (atleast non that I can think of) and I feel that this is a very original release. Ground breaking may be going to far, but strong and original definitely. There are some aspects to the band which may keep some from being able to get into the music wholely. Those aspects are probably the catchyness of alot of riffs, the experimental riffage, and harmonies (layering, etc.), and maybe the ultra tight musicians, production, and sound, not to mention the all the music can be an odd contrast to the bands that were big at the time.
I highly recomend this to any who appreciate the mid 90's Swedish BM scene, and to those in search of something very different. This is true metal regardless of what is said about them, in my opinion of course.
A "Via Dolorosa" is a spiritual journey (and 13 station real treck) that a christian takes to to rewalk the steps Jesus took on route from Pilate's judgment hall to Calvary, and I think, in contrast, that the title is a fitting one due to the lyrical content focusing mainly on journey, discovery, mental awakening, and sacrifice. Also the long drawen out songs help to fit the intended message (or atleast that what I get out if).