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From the depths of madness. - 86%

ConorFynes, November 4th, 2015

I think it's difficult nowadays to appreciate just how far Dødheimsgard took black metal at the end of the 1990s. 666 International's bold push to twist the sound with industrial interference and jazz-based intuition did for black metal what Atheist's Unquestionable Presence did for its death metal counterpart several years prior. Of course, by the time we're at now, black metal is practically old enough as a genre to have settled down, possibly had kids, and otherwise aged enough to have seen each one of its potential permutations realized into some shape or form. When it's become relatively 'normal' to hear bands constantly pushing the boundaries, it's woefully easy to forget there was once a time things of an experimental nature were major risks to take in a scene that took pride in its own obscurity.

All things considered, Dødheimsgard's been pretty quiet in the years since they changed the game. Supervillain Outcast dropped eight years later in 2007, and it's now been seven years since that. The sheer rarity of their output makes A Umbra Omega feel that much more like a cherished event; there would be few other circumstances I'd be openly embrace a 70 minute metal album without reservations. The major waiting period makes it so that it would seem inappropriate to call this latest DHG opus a real follow-up to their past material; nonetheless, there were things I'd expect from any new work of theirs. No Dødheimsgard record could be complete without taunting the listener's sanity to some forsaken degree, and a consistent standard of musicianship far beyond the par of their contemporaries would be virtually a granted fact. To call A Umbra Omega DHG's finest album may be tempting exaggeration, but the fact that I want to go out and say that should be testament to the album's jaw-dropping creativity. I'll say this much for it: where on past albums not all of Dødheimsgard's experiments succeeded unanimously, A Umbra Omega is consistently dazzling the entire way through.

Though still unmistakably black metal, never has the line between that and the avant-garde felt so blurred with Dødheimsgard. Following the project's time silent, a renewed grasp of style abounds, and it may be easiest to loosely define what DHG are doing here as progressive extreme metal. Even the vocals-- provided here by Aldrahn from the band's heyday-- are conceivably alien to blackened norms. The screeching guitar parts are as atonal as ever, the drums laced with off-kilter jazz repertoire, and atop all of this Aldrahn delivers one of the most compelling and strange vocal performances I have heard on a metal record. His snarling, dissonant sprechgesang often resembles the maddening cadence of a carnival announcer. The instrumentation never lets up its pace to make way for the vocals, and I don't think a more traditional vocal performance would have held up against DHG's technical chops, for here they are punishing, mind-bending and unrelenting in their calculated depravity.

It's par for the course for an avant-garde metal band to throw every possible style and idea into the pot for an eclectic mess as part of their musical statement. Dødheimsgard aren't beyond these playfully unexpected detours, but what most distinguishes this from their past albums is the fact that they've managed to congeal it into something that sounds tight and coherent. You'll hear a lot of memorable one-shot passages throughout the album's hour-plus, but it never sounds like DHG are straying from the course. As to how the band have managed to get this impression across, I'm not completely sure. If I had to guess, I'd say they grasped a handful of the most insane and off-hand traits in their arsenal (the swirling riffs, jazzy drums and theatrical vocals among them) and had confidence enough in their core sound to carry it throughout the album's length.

That A Umbra Omega has such a strong center makes the said detours all the more engaging when they do happen. While the glitchy industrial intro "The Love Divine" is an obvious write-off in this regard, every following piece (averaging around the 12 minute mark) offers at least a few of these each, and they're almost all individually memorable. Of these, "Aphelion Void" offers up some of the best at the album's start, particularly a slow-building, electronics-based passage about 8 minutes into the piece. Arguably my favourite moment in the entirety of A Umbra Omega encompasses the last two minutes of "God Protocol Axiom", where a tense and otherwise atonal composition erupts into a beautifully heart-wrenching, actually melodic climax. Shortly after, of course, DHG are back to their standard tricks, and despite the album's length, their go-to techniques of controlled chaos and quasi-operatic pomp never lose their stopping power.

For an avant-garde album that hinges primarily on a single sound and madness-inducing tone, A Umbra Omega really does feel consistently engaging and fascinating. The album's length and its predilection for daunting track lengths doesn't make it such an easy listen even for the long-since initiated, but once I start listening to the album, it's tough to put down. I'm sure A Umbra Omega could have said just as much in less time, but considering we haven't heard anything from this legendary band in so long, I could never complain about DHG eating up more of a compact disc's space than most ever attempt. As always, A Umbra Omega isn't for the faint of heart, but then again, Dødheimsgard have only ever catered to an adventurous sort of listener. Even if it could never bear the historical gamechanging significance of 666 International, I'm not afraid to say this band has set a new standard for themselves with this one.

A Umbra Omega - 100%

H_P Buttcraft, September 16th, 2015

You wouldn’t guess that this record would be a black metal album just from the look of that cover of “A Umbra Omega”. It sort of looks like something you’d expect to see on a house album or indie rock band’s record cover. But if you believed that, even for a moment, you’d be fooled. Norway’s Dødheimsgard are a completely different breed of black metal band. And this latest release of theirs marks Dødheimsgard’s second decade of existence since their inception in the early 1990’s. And this is also the latest album to come from the band in quite some time; their last record dropped in 2007.

You may not know about this by now but Dødheimsgard are one of the few bands that are left standing from the second wave of black metal bands to emerge out of Norway in the 1990’s. Fenriz of Darkthrone, Apolloyn of Aura Noir and Galder of Dimmu Borgir and Old Man's Child were among the band’s earliest members when they recorded strictly black metal. But in 1999, the band decided to head towards a more experimental and edgier direction while still retaining their black metal roots. This stylistic decision can also be heard in Vicotnik’s other project, the incomparable Ved Buens Ende, which remain one of the most idiosyncratic offerings of all time to black metal music.

And what Dødheimsgard has done with “A Umbra Omega” is offer another high-quality musical experience that creates a brand new, more creative angle for Norwegian black metal. The bizarre expressions of insanity, the sense of losing your mind and being begotten by the world in the composition of each song are painted in temperate and desolate tones and shades. And each vocal section are mastered as though they are like twisted church sermons ensnaring the mind of the listener to a string of words expressing the living contradiction we create and continue to throw future generations into this artificial void of madness and despair. These words are recited in a way that is similar to what you might expect during a performance of a Shakespeare drama; very expressive and melodramatic.

“Aphelion Void”, the album’s gigantic opening track that stretches its impressive arrangement of dark, moody, avant garde rock music across a quarter of an hour, kicks things right into gear. Not that this is the only track on “A Umbra Omega” that caught my attention or that is worth mentioning but I will mostly focus on this song for my review. I really could make a much longer review going over the intricacies of each and every composition on the record though I won’t. I feel like this one track is a fine representation of the rest of the record and I certainly do not want to spoil any of the surprises the other songs have for my readers.

What’s particularly exceptional about this song, and the rest of the tracks on “A Umbra Omega,” are how much presence the bass guitar and synthesizers and keyboards are. Both of these instruments seem to be the most expressive non-vocal instruments when Dødheimsgard are movements that aren’t so “kvlt” and “grim”. “A Umbra Omega” isn’t so much made for elitist black metal fans either but rather for audiophiles such as myself. So, for that, I am grateful.

There are times on “Aphelion Void” that feel dizzying. The songs constantly morphs and changes its shape to something different every minute it goes on. The mixing, along with the mad genius that Dødheimsgard are, becomes extremely hypnotizing the deeper you go into the song. “Aphelion Void” is very similar to a lot of the other songs on this album where it begins right off the bat with a blasting, frigid storm of black metal riffs but soon transforms into something much more delicate and strange.

I think both stylistically and melodically, “A Umbra Omega“ is a huge, polar-opposite sound from DHG’s last release, 2007’s “Supervillain Outcast”. That album was so much more grounded in creating a sinister atmosphere and with “A Umbra Omega,” Dødheimsgard seems to be striving to transcend the stereotypes of being a black metal band. The writing on this album reflects this in a way I found to be quite captivating. “Taught how to hide/ But not to listen/ Until words come/ Ripping mouths open/ Can you handle the hunger/ When fear favours the broken.” (from “Aphelion Void”)

Despite the track lengths being taxing, every composition going well over the ten-minute mark, and the lyrics being borderline insane, “A Umbra Omega” was a true artistic masterpiece in my book. Dødheimsgard are easily one of the most fascinating bands in all of black metal and really know how to create tones that have a wealth of character, melodrama, emotion and setting to them. This album was a grand experiment that succeeded with flying colors. There is so much to soak in on this album that it will most likely require several listens that will demand your full attention.

Originally published on Metal-Temple.com, 4-23-2015.

It was totally worth the wait. - 100%

DSOfan97, September 4th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Peaceville Records (Digipak)

Dødheimsgard, whom I will from now on, simply call DHG, somehow managed to release their best album twenty years after their formation. But lets take it from the start. DHG promised us a double album, or two albums, one after another, I'm still not sure about that. And you know what happened next? Absolutely nothing. No albums were released, just a statement from Vicotnik saying that, he had 'burnt' everything. On top of that Kvohst had left the band two years earlier and thus Vicotnik would have to either do the vocals himself or find a solid replacement.

However, when A Umbra Omega was released, everything was swept away by the wonderful noise that DHG were producing. At first I couldn't believe that Vicotnik and his lot of musicians were back in the business, but that was of little significance. The music was unbelievably good and I knew that I was listening to what would probably become my album of the year. But the thing that clicked for me the most, was the fact that A Umbra Omega is totally unpredictable. When you listen to it for the first time, you should expect everything to happen. The genre is not strictly black metal, but if anything, black metal is the basis. On top of it, there are acoustic passages and moments that sound like Opeth, jazzy instrumentation and even some electronic elements. A Umbra Omega is also the debut for two musicians in DHG. Those are Lars Emil Måløy, who appeared as a guest bassist, but soon became a full time member, and Sekaran (aka Terghl) who has been drumming for DHG for quite a while, yet this is his first studio work with them.

Vicotnik wrote all the music and most of the lyrics. That being said, the man is a genius! While he uses some structures, the music feels like sonic schizophrenia with all those shifts and changes towards unknown directions. He doesn't waste any time on pointless dissonant shredding, for the sake of being dissonant or technical. Every riff hits the nail right on the head and the adrenaline explosion at the beginning of 'Aphelion Void' is the greatest proof of that. While all songs have similar introductions (an artistic choice, I'm sure), they are barely comparable with each other, and that really says something. The bass, mostly played by Vicotnik, is also amazing. Without being particularly groundbreaking, it certainly follows its own rules from start to finish. As for the drums, Sekaran displays a little bit of every drum technique he has mastered, a fact that leads to an insane performance. Basically, every individual in this album manages to achieve perfection on his known and at the same time contribute to the album's overall greatness.

But wait... What about the vocals? Well, guess who's back? Aldrahn is, and this time he's here to stay. I can hardly state in words, how gorgeous his voice is on A Umbra Omega. If in 666 International, his voice sounded unique and able to pull a wide range of diverse vocalizations, be prepared for a jaw-dropping performance. Influenced by Devil Doll's singer, Mr. Doctor (and he has confirmed that he's being influenced by Mr. Doctor), Aldrahn surprised me with what might be the most theatrical vocal performance of the decade. Sure, he's no King Diamond, but still... I can hardly grasp the fact that he's been doing those vocals in concert, that's how insane they are. As for the techniques... He uses pretty much everything, from melodic singing, to spoken word, and even whispering, doing shrieked vocals and screaming in a way that I have never heard before. Actually, one could easily buy the album just for Aldrahn's performance. I'm not kidding that's how good it is.

So it seems that I found my album of the year already. All my expectations were instantly destroyed. A Umbra Omega, is a demanding listen, more than any other release I've listened to all year. It's also highly rewarding. The themes of insanity are always present, from the music itself, to the strictly black and white lyric booklet, in which you'll read some really interesting lyrics. If you're looking for some amazingly written, groundbreaking black metal, or whatever genre, this is what you need. In case you ignored this album's existence until now, stop reading and go check it out. Hopefully DHG won't take another eight years to write A Umbra Omega's successor, but still, this is beyond any imagination... A must have for everyone. Seriously, buy this at first chance.

Favorite tracks: 'The Unlocking', 'Architect of Darkness'.

100/100.

Dødheimsgard - A Umbra Omega - 100%

Avestriel, March 22nd, 2015

So far, not only this year but apparently this whole decade, there seems to be only a small handful of people who see or hear how much there still is to do with the fertile earth of extreme metal, particularly black. How much forward we can still push, before we decide to become stagnant and just flop about in the mud of repetition and imitation. One of them is Solefald. The other is Dødheimsgard. Both took their time to release their latest, yet Dødheimsgard is the one that has made us fans suffer the most.

Eight years, the same amount of time that went in-between 666 International and Supervillain Outcast, the latter being generally considered not worth the wait. Personally I think it's an amazing album, but yes, the eight year gap between 1999 and 2007 almost doesn't make it worth it. So, the question: Was it worth it now? Was the wait...the agonizing wait finally brought to an end by a release that is deserving, ground-shaking, fresh, unique?

You bet your auntie's wheelchair it was, because what Dødheimsgard as a whole and Mr. Parvez in particular have been hiding from us for this long definitely sounds (and sorta looks) like it needed that amount of time. It sounds, feels and presents itself as something that is worth the wait. The massive album, consisting of an intro and five monumental (reference intended) tracks, none under the 10 min. mark, somehow manages to beat all odds and beat the irreparable ruins of inventiveness and effort (and money) that mighty Time leaves scrambled and confused in its wake. And most importantly, it brings the closest thing to closure that we'll get in more than one front.

But first: the music proper.

After a short intro, the name of which evokes a particularly groundbreaking milestone in the world of Jazz as well as a collaborative album by McLaughling and Santana which is itself a tribute to the previously named album (The Love Supreme - John Coltrane), we are hit in directly in our ears' faces by a blistering riff which seems right out of the Satanic Art EP or even the more complex tremolo riffs off of 666 international. The vocals are also very much reminiscent of the glorious work laid in that album, albeit noticeably more restricted. The track quickly changes pace and turns into something out of a lost Ved Buens Ende session, complete with the liquid bass and the imaginative drumming. Murky, terrestrial, dark production values give rise to the paradoxically ethereal and detached ambiance and mood of albums like Ordo Ad Chao.

The five songs are similar in the sense that they're playfully deceitful, unpredictable, varied, hyperactive and yet drenched in heavy and intoxicating ambiance and a sense of purpose in its progression. This is the main collection of traits it shares with 666 International, and one of the reasons I'm inclined to sort of agree with people who affirm that this is indeed 666 part deux. The only thing that keeps both of them firmly separate is the focus shifting away from psychedelic schizophrenic industrial slams to something else entirely. Something more distant and blurry, but unavoidable and quickly approaching, like a train through the fog.

The lack of a noticeably sci-fi-ish production gives way to a very daunting realization, which is: this is the closest we've ever gotten (and will ever get) to a sequel of sorts for Ved Buens Ende....'s Written In Water, by far one of the most unique albums in all of metal, released about 20 years before A Umbra Omega. The trademark Parvez riffs, the dissonance entangled with the dancing bass lines and the jazzy yet relentless drumming are undeniably VBEsque, yet the vocals fit comfy in 666 Int. territory. That and the timbric variety the album offers, the several "moments" or musical vignettes that are discrete yet meld into each other that make up the compositions, their endurance and memorability make this album a proper journey that strangely enough seems to end a bit too quickly. This album is, right now, a classic, and I'm sure it'll be remembered as one of the albums that shaped the sound of the 2010s, a decade in dire need of an identity.

"But wait!", I hear you say in your ridiculously high-pitched helium squeak. "How is any of this innovative enough to be deserving of all this praise?" you continue, followed by a few clucks for good measure. Sure, when dissected the resulting bits and pieces analysed and its elements traced back in time, it would seem I'm over-hyping yet another contemporary proggy/"avant" black metal album, and you'd be half right, my feathery friend, if we could take all these elements individually and ignore the greater whole, which, as any through school, from Gestalt to new age-y bollocks will tell you, is different from the mere sum of its parts. That's the key to understand the transcendental nature of this work. That's the word: transcendental. Leaving aside justified albeit lazily nihilist conclusions about transcendence not being an actual thing that happens and exists, works like these get pretty feckin' close to it. Just as with Solefald's latest, this album is the culmination (so far and let's hope not definitely) of years of musical growth and evolution, yet it separates itself both from its predecessors and from its contemporaries. We've been saturated over the past five odd years with rehashes of the last semblances of true vanguard and innovation that made the second half of the 2000s such an exciting time. We've had people throw around and about terms like "post" and "neo" until they've lost meaning. Musicians have been dwelling and relying far too much on eclecticism for the sake of eclecticism, which might work wonders from time to time, but fail to both be memorable and create something new, something unique; they've failed to recreate the magic of coming up with new musical languages, with works that cannot be confused with other works. This album shines brightly on that department. You cannot confuse this album with any other, not even the band's previous efforts, no matter how trademark the riffing is and how unmistakably Dødheimsgard this album is. Taken as a whole, it sounds and feels like a crash course on everything that previous bands have gotten wrong for most of this decade and a glimmering example of how to right those wrongs.

I feel I can't make the music itself justice. I can only hint at it, point it with my little finger, mutter about some aspects of it as if they were the intimate and terrifying visions of a man locked in a room with a round mirror in the corner, no shoelaces, no belts and plenty of medication. But that's pretty much the state in which works like these leave the listener, and it's an unmistakable sign of success. This album is cohesive, the complete opposite of haphazard. It's cerebral and also visceral, relentless and kind. It rewards the listener, especially the kind of listener who is thirsty for new challenges, for things that require understanding, thought and repeated visits. Yet it all clicks at once\ and brands you like cattle, stamping its schizedelic soundprint on your brain's ears. I've been feeling very uneasy and disappointed about the state of affairs in the music world this decade, but it's works like these that light the way, dim at first but glowing ever stronger, out of the damp, empty and dead landscape that surrounds us. If we're able to follow the light, and to keep up with its speed, then we may have a much needed spectacular closer to an otherwise lackluster decade, which is an anomaly when looking back on past decades.

And with that subtle description of the album's cover art (which, granted, wouldn't look much out of place amongst the latest wave of Pitchfork-Core alt-whatever bands that have been vomiting into our ears for far too long now), I suppose I better end this review before it becomes a boring and long-ass analysis of this decade's musical identity or lack thereof.

Conclusion: it is certainly not every day (or year) that I get to say I was surprised and dumbfounded by what I heard, especially from a seasoned band. This album avoids boredom, staleness, repetition and imitation, and is clear proof of just how much there's still to do within and without the black metal world. Contender for album of the year, and decade. Also, the fact that this time an album postponed for almost a decade (or, in some cases, much more) WAS worth the wait is definitely a first.