A review of “Ominous” (2010) by The Wretched End (Norway)
I feel it is definitely not a wise thing to mention “Emperor” in a review of any Samoth (Tomas Haugen) or Ihsahn’s (Vegard Tveitan) record, but somehow it pops up naturally whenever a talk touches any of the two artists. The aspiration of Samoth, a renowned figure in extreme metal genre, to put out fast and loud music, packed with mad blast beats and straightforward riffing became very noticeable back in the good old days of “Emperor”. Yes, it worked very well back then, combined with utterly different approach of Ihsahn. “IX Equilibrium” was a solid piece of metal (though there was little of “Emperor” there, but it is a different story). To my mind, this weird combination of approaches and mind sets was one of the key secrets of the band’s success throughout their short career. But somehow without those unconventional prog and avant-garde magic spells from Mr. Tveitan, Samoth music looks like a tree without bark and leaves. But enough of that talk; let’s get down to the CD.
“Ominous” saw the light of the world in 2010, on October 25th (how symbolic – right on the day of communist coup d’état in the former Russian Empire in 1917 – ominous…), through Nocturnal Art Productions (distributed via parent label Candlelight Records). Ad notam, Samoth owns Nocturnal Art Productions. This was a 12-track debut work from a new band, “The Wretched End”, which Samoth put together after his former child “Zyklon” officially became a history.
Looking at the technical side of things, the performance of the musicians (apart from Samoth, Nils Fjellström and Cosmocrator took part in the recording) is very professional, even outstanding. This did not save the record though, so to say. The album features extensive use of blast beats and I use the word “extensive” here on purpose. The drums sound like a machine gun in the hands of a possessed maniac throughout the entire CD – believe me that is really annoying, considering the length of the album (45:20 min). I spotted quite a lot of instances of double-vocal parts (just cannot use polyphony term, when speaking about death metal). Growling itself, by the way, is quite plain, nothing ominous heard.
“Ominous” is produced loud and very clear. The sound is dry, which probably explains the lack of any more or less discernable mood on the album. It is soulless and definitely not edgy enough to be ominous. The style of the band is described as death/thrash metal here in Metal Archives, but there is nothing old-school from any of the two styles found in this music. The album sounds very modern and faceless, plain.
The record boasts ridiculously many inserts of background speech – I would say the most I have ever heard on a single CD. But it features a right adoption of keyboards, as I feel it. Here it is of a very local background use, either to soften the dry sound, or create a feeling of evilness, or just underline some passages. I cannot say for sure.
All twelve songs have a fast tempo and all sound very alike; basically, there is absolutely nothing memorable here. That is why I do not see the point to talk about any track in particular. The record, as I said above, is quite faceless. There is almost total absence of solos. The riffing in general deserves some credit here, though its patterns are straightforward and predictable – like the whole album. In combination with machine gun drums this creates a grey monotonous picture, with nothing catching the eye. Every song on “Ominous” features a couple of instances of rhythm change, which nevertheless does not dilute the general monotony of the music. Structurally, you can compare it to the “Judas Priest” works with Ripper, which were perfect technically, though not appealing at all.
The album is “over-professional”, I would say. It is packed with literally everything you expect from a well-written extreme metal album and, to my mind, this very feature in combination with the clearest production and lack of any mood makes the CD ordinary and quite tiresome. If not a review, I would not survive till the end of it during the very first listening.
Well, there is not much of originality here, if any. Looking back at the last “Zyklon” release (“Disintegrate”, May 15th, 2006) one could easily trace numerous similarities between these two CDs, with the overall music “face” being the same. I would say “Ominous” picked up where “Zyklon” stopped, though in a more simplified manner. Definitely recommended for the fans of “Zyklon”.
P.S. I really appreciated the almost minimalistic CD cover art.