DØDHEIMSGARD — A Umbra Omega (review)

DØDHEIMSGARD — A Umbra Omega album cover Album · 2015 · Avant-garde Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
Out of all the black metal bands to emerge from the Norwegian scene in the 90s perhaps none have strayed so far from its roots as has Oslo’s DØDHEIMSGARD and while not exactly the most prolific band having only released a mere five albums and one EP since its 1994 formation, nevertheless continues to sporadically release some of the most challenging and bizarre avant-garde metal releases that still retain the black metal template which launched their existence. The band which has had numerous lineup changes since its formation has had as many stylistic shifts culminating in the innovative industrial / black metal hybrids of “666 International” and “Supervillain Outcast.” The former was released all the way back in 2007 and then the band seemingly fell off the face of the Earth but in reality was slowly conjuring up its biggest surprise of all, namely 2015’s fifth full-length release A UMBRA OMEGA (In The Shadow Of Omega).

This is an entirely new lineup for DØDHEIMSGARD with only founding member Vicotnik still around over twenty years later and the result is truly an entirely new sound that takes black metal into even stranger more challenging extremes. This is an album that i had to wait several years to fully grasp as it eluded me for the first few listens, a feat that is almost non-existent in my reality since as a music nerd i’m fairly quick to latch onto musical challenges but despite the fairly accessible opening hooks that exist on A UMBRA OMEGA, the album delivers a labyrinthine system of alternating between high octane black metal outbursts (usually at the beginning of the six tracks and then revisited) along with a mix of everything from post-metal sounding segments, Floydian space rock, classical piano runs and even trip hop amongst others. While not the first to employ such adventurous tactics of juggling disparate genres, the beauty of A UMBRA OMEGA is how seamlessly integrated all these extra touches are stitched together and add a perfectly polished production job and you will be treated to a perfect avant-garde metal delivery if only you have the patience to allow this near impenetrable fortress of sound to open its gates for your arrival.

Like any album that excels in complexities rarely reached in a musical format, A UMBRA OMEGA is one that requires 100% of your attention being focused on every intricate development of the musical flow. If this music is thrown on willy nilly as background music then this will sound like utter gibberish. The six tracks meander all over the place but the melodic development does provide a stream of consciousness which threads it all together so this album isn’t as impenetrable as some of the most extreme examples of avant-prog or some of the avant-jazz fueled brutal prog out there. This one almost sounds like it was constructed like an electronica album that implements changes in tone clusters and timbres dressed up in musical styles to convey its message. The tracks start out with bombastic black metal fueled tremolo guitar riffs and blastbeats but after a while they dissolve into more surreal passages that generate electronic fueled space rock accompanied by classical piano. Perhaps even stranger yet is the weird shared vocal styles of Vicotnik and Aldrahn’s semi-spoken heartfelt lyrical deliveries that literally sounds like nothing else i’ve ever heard.

This is definitely a case of a band going for the art rock jugular as this is a truly challenging listening experience where every sonic addition is a stroke on a magnanimous musical canvas where no compromise is made for the sake of the non-musical types out there who don’t embrace the pinnacle of artistic evolution and while the whole project may come off a bit self-indulgent and disconnected from the pulse of the commercial metal scene, that’s exactly the point. This is the type of musical project that is targeted for those interested in hearing something hitherto unexperienced. After a few years of letting this one sink in, i can only conclude that this is a work of genius and continues the intermittent legacy of Norway’s weirdest extreme metal band in perfect form. Clearly DØDHEIMSGARD is a musical project that emphasizes quality over quantity and with A UMBRA OMEGA, the band produced its most intricately sophisticated oeuvre to date. Although Aldrahn departed in 2016, a new album has been purported to be in the making. Where will this strange band go next? It is futile to even attempt such a prediction. Simply wait patiently and find out when that day comes.
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