Monday, September 26, 2011

Omit - Repose (2011)

One of the biggest issues in the metal world today is keeping track of all of the genres, subgenres, names, "cores" and intentions. What one man considers to be thrash, another man could see as metalcore. So, when you first see that Omit, hailing from Oslo, Norway, is a melodic doom metal band, leave your preconceived notions of what you think that means at the door. This is unlike anything you have seen or heard before. It has all of the melancholic power of My Dying Bride with all of the radiant beauty of opera. Redefine your ideals with "Repose."

The opening track, "Scars," is a sign of things to come. Traditional down tempo doom beats, slow distorted guitar chords, and the cry of a violin. But as the vocals enter, there is something different. A beautiful, enchanting female voice is the lead, a ray of sunshine through the graying sky. Frontwoman Cecille Langlie casts a melodic spell over you. The track length may be an initial concern, but the band manage to keep the music fresh throughout, offering more than just the "same old" doom. A short piano interlude steals your breath, and intermittent periods of angelic chanting may give you chills. The combination of sounds and styles makes this sixteen minute epic feel like several acts in a play, each with their own emotional attachments. The pounding of drums enters and exits, each stroke carrying the darker tones. But the keys and heavenly voice are always right around the corner, lifting your spirits.

The solemn whines of the violin lead you into "Fatigue," and you may now feel the immense emotional weight coming down on you. This is what melodic doom can and should be. The depth of sound is astonishing, even with a limited number of layers to be heard. But within each layer, there is is a richness that is so often lacking. The vocals are, once again, sublime, bringing forth a true somber force. The use of orchestral arrangements heightens the experience, surrounding you in an ethereal haze. The guitars are a stronger presence here, climbing higher in tone, and throwing in those glorious low, buzzing chords. But the star of the track is that violin, carving a hole in your soul that you may not soon repair. After a lengthy string solo, the band reenters, with Langlie's voice returns to you, both comforting and cold. Could this be the new darkened lullaby?

Soft acoustic plucking gives way to a wave of sound, from delicate strings to the haunting sound of a flute. "Dissolve" sees some excellent use of instrumentation, from the light tapping of bells to some of the more intense chugging. The understated moments are dazzling, with the pounding of drums pairing with Langlie's voice in a perfect match. Everything flows together from minute to minute, with bursts of orchestral arrangements becoming the proverbial glue. The shining star is the lyrical content, conveying a sense of sadness and hopelessness, without being overbearing or pretentious. The tone jumps back and forth, with short acoustic passages calming you, before turning things over to that distorted guitar work that every doom fan craves. The more intricate guitar parts are accompanied by the simple beauty of bells. Contrast is something Omit uses well.

The second disc begins with "Constriction," taking the bells to new levels. They echo around the fading distortion and thumping of kick and snare. There is something in Ceceille Langlie's voice that conveys a sense of fragility, but somehow paired with strength. That rare and stunning combination will stay with you long after the music has stopped. The band are firing on all cylinders at this point, creating a flowing tapestry of metal glory. Each member is filling his or her void to perfection. The guitars are deep, and rich. The drums hold the tempo in place, whether it be with the soft tap of cymbals or the loud thud of the bass drum. The soft moments are soft. The heavy moments are relentless. But both sides share the same coin, with the vocal track guiding you through the twists and turns. There is something cinematic about the way the track is constructed, even without a clear verse, bridge, chorus structure.

The finale, a nearly twenty six minute monster known as "Insolence," is the model of ambition. On an album that tops the 85 minute mark, a track of this length could be seen as a risk. But using the formula that has worked so well throughout all of "Repose," it is a same gamble. Each measure is a new breath of oxygen, each section having it's own separate life. From acoustics to orchestra, light crooning to bellowing chants, This track is an album unto itself. The violin that left a void in our hearts earlier returns, seeking to repair the damage done. Despite the doom and gloom atmosphere you may have encountered over the course of the last hour of your life, there is something life affirming about music this thoughtfully crafted. Find solace in each note, each lingering lyric.

First, an admission. When sitting down to listen to an album, seeing an 85 minute running time could be frightening, and altogether intimidating. However, upon hitting play, time will no longer matter. Doom metal is not about short, airy tracks with a lot of fluff. And Omit is not your grandmother's traditional doom metal band. My advice to you, dear reader, is this: grab a copy of "Repose," grab a bag of chips or salted peanuts and a cold beverage of your choice. Got your snacks? Good. Press play, and let the music wash over you. When the album comes to a close, brush the crumbs from your shirt and go outside. You might see a different world than the one you knew.


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