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Modern symphonic metal is a tricky venture. When daring to trudge down the orchestral path a few things to consider come into play…what’s been done? What CAN be done? And what SHOULD be done? We’ve been able to enjoy the more enjoyable wares of a band like EPICA versus the go-nowhere drudgery of the likes of WINDS OF PLAGUE, but what of the darker, more blackened wastes? Has the world of symphonic black metal been able to evolve and not resort to apery and requited bothersomeness?
Let’s find out with this here SOTHIS band…
Much ado has been espoused about this Cali-based corpse-painted horde, from the mild Hot Topic whoring to the proposition on them being the “next big black metal band”, and when it comes to their latest, “De Oppresso Liber”, there seems to be a strangely mesmerizing combination of the old-timey-ness in the orchestral arrangements with a futuristic feel with the digitized production and sound, sitting somewhere between vintage EMPEROR and modern-day DIMMU BORGIR. There’s a very earnest feel in the overall performance, where chaotic, thrashy riffs (complete with well-done breakdown moments), overly DETHKLOK-ish soloing, vocoder-evoking snarls, melodic synthetics, and overtly sampled, almost drum machiney percussion cascade down the burning heavens to scare the living hell out of unsuspecting listeners, and they would have truly succeeded in doing so…if it all hadn’t been done before by bigger and better bands. In this day and age, it’s nigh impossible to reinvent the wheel, and as a result all a band can do with their given style is kick ass and takes names, and it seems these guys have what it takes to do so, just not this time around. These Californian trouble-makers definitely have a lot of good ideas in this album, but are they REALLY the “next big black metal band”? Hardly. Sure, they have the speed and energy necessary to keep their cyber blasphemy afloat and they can burn the candle at both ends in terms of respectability and mainstreamdom, but it takes more…it takes the heart and soul of TRUE black metal that, in the end, seems lacking in this exercise of mechanized misanthropy. This is shown by way of songs like “De Oppresso Liber”, “Beneath a Black Boiling Sky”, and “Obsidian Throne” where the overall product glitters and gleams with the artificial gloss their cover art conveys. But maybe I’m just being too nitpicky and asking too much from out-of-the-woodwork bands popping out these days.
So in the end this was a decent listen, but I fear this may not have much staying power. Worth a few listens now and then, but should your hunger for all that is metallic and evil become overwhelming this may be forsaken for the likes of the older, Nordic acts. Ah well.
I know there’s a lot of criticism latched onto the body of American black metal. Standing as a proud enthusiast and musical hunter within the realms of America’s black metal vista, I’ve discovered a number of groups that are otherworldly in their exposition against the odds, but also others that couldn’t light a candle if they were given a flame possessed by Hell itself. Needless to say, “De Oppresso Liber” is damper than a marsh in New Orleans; it’s unable to burn with any creativity, desire, or instrumental passion throughout its burdensome act of desecrating the desecrator. Perhaps this record is the Battlefield Earth to Sothis’ formula: big, bombastic, and given the A-grade treatment, but ultimately turns into a complete failure behind the multiple yet senseless barriers.
And I would like to point out barriers make Sothis; there is certainly no vice versa connection as “De Oppresso Liber” shows the total collapse of Sothis’ fragile infrastructure. The ultimate bombshell is dropped through the horrid production and mixing of “De Oppresso Liber,” which, according to my perceptual tastes, is offensive on every level. Instead of an assault that remains both violent and atmospheric, Sothis instead opted for the works: percussion so triggered it sounds fake, guitars that are as polished as it gets, keyboards that exert no sense of atmosphere, and vocals operating from today’s finest microphones and technology.
Is this exclusively a bad idea overall? For some, no; however, therein lies the problem: Sothis, by nature, needs to be raw instead of something pulled out of Roadrunner Records, and, by including such tomfoolery, destroys the essential mainframe of “De Oppresso Liber” undeniably. The album’s title literally means to liberate the oppressed in Latin, but if anything, Sothis enslave themselves into the grind of modern expectations and ideals. Basically, everything is completely overdone in some whirling explosion of theatrical charades so large and annoying even the guys from Dragonforce would find Sothis’ methods way out in leftfield.
Of course, another dagger-to-the-heart problem still exists after considering Sothis’ flaccid sound: they couldn’t write a good song to save Norway. Do you want to form a band like Sothis? I’ll give you a quick rubric on the basic requirements:
1. Write pseudo-death/black metal riffs that have been used a zillion times before.
2. Always apply constant blast beats and/or double-bass pedals as much as possible. No questions asked.
3. Exercise the counterfeit idea of symphonic music partaking in the philosophy of extreme metal with redundant keyboards that have been functional in every symphonic black metal band ever.
4. Write about 3-5 guitar solos per song.
5. Always destroy any chance of individualism within the album by making sure every song follows the same pattern and ideology.
6. Have someone rasp into a microphone.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is “De Oppresso Liber” in a nutshell: generic, bland, predictable, and yielding no musical euphoria. Alas, even objects that should remain untarnished from this obvious downfall are quickly and permanently sucked in a negative vortex where nothing dwells but everlasting junk, just as expected.
If anything, Sothis tightens the chains that bind “De Oppresso Liber” until nothing escape its dying lungs except the typical, expected garbage you can find anywhere and everywhere, only layered and puffed with more studio magic than Trivium’s next abominable release, resulting in a solid dump of junk and a fruity waste of time. Even if you enjoy groups that blatantly bastardize everything relevant in black metal like Dimmu Borgir or Cradle of Filth, you will likely find “De Oppresso Liber” repulsive, but then again, anyone interested in such horrible music obviously enjoys the dump of instrumental magic anyway, so maybe you’ll find something of interest after all. However, intelligent music fans better heed my warning: you will want to steer clear.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
From the moment of seeing a picture of Sothis it is clear what lays in store - black metal - and for those more in the know of such subjects, the knowledge too that Sothis reside at the intricate 'un-kvlt' end of the scale, far opposed to your sicker dirtier Watain's or Deathspell Omega's. One might remember in my review of Nachtmystium's superb "Assassins..." from a few months back, the mention of USBM and it's differing fortunes. Well Sothis come from that horribly dark place known as Los Angeles, California, yet are the perpetrators of such a totally European sounding BM style one would never consider their homes being across the pond.
Such is the similarity across "De Oppresso Liber" to the grandiose blasting of Dimmu Borgir and Emperor coupled with the theatrics of Cradle of Filth one wonders their reasons in trying to sound so European (Norwegian to be precise). Every song is heavily laden with the synth and keys of only female member Asperia, providing the backbone upon which the high-speed charge of the guitars takes place; however while the songs sound rich and full because of her influence, the feeling of darkness and misanthropy that I'm sure Sothis wish to conjure feels noticeably absent. This unfortunately is the unavoidable crossroads met for such an album nowadays, where the cleanliness and shock horror-feel of songs like "The Cold Disconnection" and "Beneath A Black Boiling Sky" won't appeal to many of the blackened hordes in the underground and yet is too extreme for many outside of it, though as Dimmu Borgir have proved in recent years, a career can be built on the foundations laid by Emperor in the 1990s for a symphonic take on Satan's favourite subgenre. The speed of attack across "De Oppresso Liber", best summed up in closer "Perpetual", mixes 'fast' with the 'pretty fast', rarely allowing Sothis to inject greater individuality that they no doubt possess into the fray, leaving lessons to be learnt against symphonic metal masters Dimmu Borgir. In such a synth-led structure, Sothis would benefit from slowing the charge, altering song structures and building up the atmosphere to turn a good album into a great one.
Far from being all negative, "De Oppresso Liber" features a band competent on their instruments, playing in the style of one of the genres giants in Dimmu and being backed up by a powerful label (Candelight) which should hold them in good stead to secure a foothold in such an extremely fickle scene as is the BM world. Quite what impact the bands location in sunny California will have remains to be seen in the coming months but if you like your Metal hard, heavy yet pleasantly polished you could do a lot worse than check out "De Oppresso Liber".
Originally written for Rockfreaks.net
There is a delicate balance to orchestral Black Metal. Too many sweeping washes of keyboard and the music ceases to be moving and is merely ornate. Sothis, unfortunately, fall into this latter circle of hell. There are a number of warning flags, but they can be forgiven. I don't dislike this debut merely because it is "available at all Hot Topic stores." I can overlook the "yikes & spikes" promo photos that display the garters and corsets of bosomy, corpse-painted keyboardist Asperia (since even the best Black Metal is admittedly ridiculously image-oriented). The truth is, I dislike De Oppresso Liber because it isn't an enjoyable listen. The hyperkinetic and overproduced songs uncurl like an inhumanly wound music box. Everything is too accented, with too many fills, bridges, raspy vocal peaks, wailing solos, and above all too much synthesizer burying everything under layer upon layer of sonic tinsel. The effect is like staring at a Christmas tree through a beaded gypsy curtain. If your taste leans toward the stage-storming polished Black Metal of Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth, you might be impressed with Sothis. I, however, will continue creeping through the undergrowth with Arckanum.
(originally written for Salt Lake Under Ground, slugmag.com)
Although this is Sothis’ debut full-length effort, they have been creating waves in the subterranean. Hailing from America, the listener should discard prejudices of the usual monotonous USBM bands. In fact, Sothis play symphonic black metal with embellishments of orthodox and melodic black metal riffing.
‘De Oppresso Liber’ is strongly keyboard driven, whipping up sinister melodies typical in symphonic black metal accentuated with developed twists. The title track and ‘Lair Of The Benighted’ are fine illustrations of this technique. ‘Beneath A Black Boiling Sky’ sounds much akin to a slower Tartaros song with an increased usage of melodic black metal riffs.
The main draw back of this release is the ordinary drumming employed. There is far too much simplistic speedy double-bass drumming that gets tiresome and obnoxious all too rapidly. Additionally, some of the melodic black metal riffs are deficient in inspiration and become mere fodder in the music, especially on 'Defiance'. Another negative point is that Sothis appeared to have relied too much of Emperor and Dimmu Borgir. Whilst they have depicted originality in the music, there is not an ample amount of innovation in occurrence. Still, this debut is enough to harbour promise and is a fair breath of fresh air from the usual tangle of black metal that emanates from America.
Originally written for www.soundshock.net