Label: Cult Of Melancholia
Bandcamp stream: Link
The latest release from USBM band Lake of Blood, Omnipotens Tyrannus, is a perfect example of why it can be best to persevere with challenging music rather than simply give up and retreat to something more comfortable and easy. At almost 79 minutes long, Omnipotens Tyrannus is an album that challenges the listener throughout its long duration, but the pay-off for doing so makes it more than worthwhile. Mixing Cascadian, doom, and discordant sounds, along with that kind of dark beauty that only the genre can provide, this is one of the best black metal releases of recent times. Those who are unwilling – or unable – to give it the time and attention it deserves are missing out.
The album pulls you in relatively gently, with opener “Blood & Mercy” being one of the most straight-forward, Cascadian style tracks on the album. This is only comparatively speaking, though: it’s still over 11 minutes long, and a lot of its charms are fairly buried, especially with some of the guitars that hint at beauty and sorrow, before changing direction or obscured by the production. At other points, there is real power and bite to the riffs and movements they conjure, aided by a superb rhythm section and vocals with just the right tones of darkness, savagery, and command.
It’s as the album goes on that more ambition is revealed. Second track “He Who Becomes” begins to introduce darker, more head-spinning elements with a haunting noise section beginning around the 6 minute mark that leads in to the slow, doom-infused opening of “In Wells of Shadow” that features a disturbing, half-heard voice in the background. It’s when the vocals begin that you realise that the song has very subtly shifted, though: the doom opening subtly morphs into something more discordant and sinister, the change done so skilfully that it’s only once the song shifts to doom tempos once more that you realise it’s happened. This is one of the strengths of the album, and one that could go unnoticed to a casual ear: there are many changes of emphasis, style and tempo, and not all of them are obvious on initial listens.
The same sense of movement and change is true of the album as a whole; as it progresses, more discordant and darker elements are gradually introduced. It’s the kind of development that only becomes clear after several listens, and highlights how much thought and time must have gone in to crafting these songs. There are still immediate thrills to be found, such as the guitar lead that emerges from the chaos around the 5:30 mark of “Tyrannus”, but this is an album best appreciated as just that: an album, to be taken as a whole, and considered in its complete context rather than as a collection of songs.
By the time “Reflect & Suffer at the Paw of Grace” concludes the album, you’ll be left reflecting that this is an album that makes the vast majority of other records being made seem like they are utterly lacking in ambition. Musically, it will appeal to fans of bands such as Aosoth, Weakling, and Altar of Plagues (whom guitarist Nordic played live guitars for). But beyond that, anyone with an interest in black metal (or, indeed, music) as an art-form and the evolution of the genre should take the time to really focus on this record. It’s available for free download via Bandcamp, so there can be few excuses for checking Omnipotens Tyrannus out. You won’t regret it.