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Whimsical Avant-Doom - 69%

TheKEZ, December 23rd, 2012

Opium Warlords, the solo project of former Reverend Bizarre frontman Sami Albert Hynninen (otherwise known to doom fanatics worldwide as Albert Witchfinder), are an odd proposition indeed. A vehicle for Sami’s more obtuse musical outpourings, Opium Warlords seemingly has more in common with dark, abstract free-folk acts like Sylvester Anfang II than it does much of the Reverend Bizarre material (although some of Sami’s trademark doom riffery still remains, naturally). Following a few years of inactivity after Reverend Bizarre called it a day, Sami is back with the charmingly titled ‘We Meditate Under The Pussy In The Sky’, an endearingly oddball collection of strange, disorientating sounds.

After the tense but fairly uneventful opener ‘Sxi-Meru’, the album’s epic 12 minute centrepiece ‘Slippy’ comes on like a more subdued Reverend Bizarre before exploding into an almighty aural mindfuck complete with awkward King Crimson-esque riffs and larynx lacerating black metal rasps. Alternating between incredibly still, stark passages and bafflingly frantic outbursts, the track conjures up a bizarre, eerie atmosphere whilst retaining an obscure sense of humour, building to a brilliantly crushing doom meltdown and subsequently collapsing into a cascade of feverish tribal drumming.

Side 2 ventures into doomier territory still, with the heady drones of ‘Lament For The Builders Of Khara Khoto’ and Quaalude laden riff extension of ‘This Wind Is A Gift From A Distant Friend’ casting a wonderfully gloomy shadow across the record. The latter eventually snaps under its own weight and gives way to a gently groovy folk tinged break, without sounding contrived at all. ‘Satan Knew My Secret Heart’ almost sounds like a rough sketch of a new Reverend Bizarre piece, stripped of any pounding drums and mournful vocals allowing the melancholy riffs to shine through, moping around for a bit until coming to an incredibly abrupt stop. It’s an interesting addition, but not the strongest contender for an album closer.

At a lean 35 minutes, ‘We Meditate…’ doesn’t quite allow for the same mammoth musical voyages that Reverend Bizarre’s finest records offer, but it also means that Opium Warlords are incapable of wearing out their welcome, with the record staying constantly engaging and surprisingly diverse throughout. It’s a pleasure to hear Sami branching out beyond the traditional doom blueprint and letting his imagination run wild, and whilst this may not be the most essential avant-folk-doom-whatever release of the year, there’s much to enjoy here for fans of Reverend Bizarre and fans of creepy, weirdly whimsical music in general.

[Originally written for]