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Their darkest one yet - 80%

Sorrownaut, May 14th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, F.D.A. Records

I have noticed that whenever Ophis are mentioned in any discussion about death/doom metal, their second album "Withered Shades" from 2010 is the one that is spoken of, and I agree that said album may still be their finest hour (I have to admit I never listened to the debut). Anyway, I got into this band in 2015 after listening to one of their songs in one of my friend's playlists and caught interest. After getting "Withered Shades" I plunged into their then-actual album "Abhorrence In Opulence", but while I surely enjoyed that one, it did not do as much for me as "Withered Shades" did. Nevertheless, when "The Dismal Circle" was released, I was thrilled to listen.

To start with the conclusion: this album is pretty great, even though it has a few flaws. This one is for sure their darkest one yet, and their slowest. The death metal sections are almost gone (apart from the ever-present growls, that is, there are no clean vox on this album at all), and the band tends more towards a funereal approach. While the previous albums relied on pummeling old school Death Metal riffs as well (Asphyx and Gutted come to mind), these are pretty much absent from "The Dismal Circle".

The opening track "Carne Noir" jumps into Death Metal for a minute or so, and so does the album-closer "Shrine of Humiliation", but apart from that, there is no uptempo to be found here. Now that might not be surprising for a Doom band, but for Ophis it is. This aspect makes the album a bit more difficult to listen to, because there is more monotony here to be found than on their earlier works. But it is worth the effort.

What I appreciate most about Ophis is their talent to write songs in excessive lenght without ever getting boring. One song even cracks the 13 minute mark, but it does not feel like 13 minutes at all. And even though some uptempo here and there would not have hurt, they manage to keep all songs interesting enough for the entire running time.

I can say that the first half of this album is the better half. Especially "Engulfed In White Noise" is a masterpiece and it is the best song I heard from this band so far. It is one of those songs that make you feel small, ugly and weak immediately. Hopeless. Bleak. This song really is on par with Doom legends and is my fave Ophis song. Emotionally crushing is the correct word here. "Carne Noir" and "Dysmelian" are awesome as well, the latter constantly swinging between melodic epicness and super harsh droning dirt.

Dirt is the key here anyway. The productions is thick, full and droning, a little muddy but still builds all the pressure such music needs. The vocals are very upfront, but since they are Pretty much in your face and overall aggressive (no silly cookie monster stuff here), this isn't much of a problem. The bass-sound however tends to be a bit too fuzzy, too sharp, too not droning enough. It makes the album suffer a bit on the low end, though it is still heavy as fuck. Even though Ophis have never been exactly "uplifiting", this Album is for sure the darkest one they created thus far. I guess "cavernous" might be a suitable term here. Mostly simple, but very effective riffs (which never really Sound as if you heard them before), countered by sorrowful lead melodies exactly where needed. There is no cheesyness here, and no clean vocals.

The only real flaw of this album is the undeniable fact that the second half is not as good as the first half. "Ephemeral" is a decent song, sorrowful with an unexpected intermezzo of wonderful clean guitars reminiscent of old Anathema vibe. But the other two tracks are not really interesting that much. Mind you, they are not bad. Certainly no filler. But they are not on par with the first three tracks of the disc (or anything on "Withered Shades" or "Abhorrence In Opulence"). So that leaves us with 3 excellent songs (with one being ready for becoming a classic), 1 good one, and 2 rather mediocre ones. Still a good output.

So in conclusion, Ophis live up to their reputation with this album, and even though "Withered Shades" still remains as their highlight, "The Dismal Circle" is a very good Death/Doom metal album worth buying!