Dødheimsgard - A Umbra Omega
Peaceville Records
Avant-Garde Black Metal
6 songs (1:07:10)
Release year: 2015
Dødheimsgard, Peaceville Records
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

It's been a long eight years since the divisive Supervillain Outcast, and Dødheimsgard's return to the studio, complete with both Aldrahn and Vicotnik for the first time since 1999 classic 666 International, is a welcome one. Trust the band not to repeat themselves, however; A Umbra Omega reduces much of the industrial elements that the band have become known for, making their use far more subtle and integrated, and calms the frenetic blunt aggression of Supervillain Outcast into an album that is both lighter and stranger. It's more of a spiritual successor to 666 International, but is still very much a sideways step for a band seemingly incapable of making the same album twice. Comprised of five lengthy, eleven-minute-plus songs and a brief solo, A Umbra Omega uses black metal as a focal point but leaps from there into glorious experimentation, confidently using everything from saxophone to jazzy piano to add flavour without allowing them to become overbearing.

So A Umbra Omega is an impressive album, although it takes a few listens before you really appreciate it. As you'd expect, it's not an easy album to get to grips with, from the title (I'm not alone in thinking it should be 'An' am I?) and artwork to the music itself. Don't expect first listens to reveal all, or even find any instantaneous hooks to ease your acclimatisation to Dødheimsgard's weird world. Intro piece The Love Divine is a mixture of glitch-y electronica and ominous ambient buzzing, a piece deceptively in keeping with the band's industrial past. After that, first song proper Aphelion Void bursts in like a demented Mayhem, galloping black metal underpinned by blasting drums and melodramatic, Csihar-esque snarled vocals from Aldrahn, subtly electronically-enhanced in places for full crazed value. It's not long before the jazz kicks in, however, shrieks from saxophone matched by Aldrahn as the music breaks down into a languid post-black morass. A lot is happening in these fifteen minutes – the point midway through when the band shift into a rather beautiful if ominous Ulver-esque ambience buzz backed by the piano and blackened guitars is one particular highlight of an excellent piece as a whole, but the effects-drenched acoustic section with backing clean singing is just as good, as is the subsequent return to black metal speed.

What becomes clear as the album progresses is that despite the general length of these pieces, they're put together so skilfully that you don't mind the initial down-payment in patience. God Protocol Axiom's opening black metal is followed by a twisted yet melancholic Arcturus-esque carnival ride driven by Aldrahn's vocals atop an understated but complex instrumental backing, growing softer and almost gothic as it progresses before a return to the initial blackened violence. The Unlocking's chamber-music-gone-mad moments with layered vocals and piano have the insane quality needed to make them not be laughable, while Architect of Darkness is exactly what tasteful post-black metal should be, full of choirs and piano and even throwing some folky flute in, all ominous and stately like early Dimmu Borgir, but even better. Finale Blue Moon Duel is the most black metal track present, like a slower, doomier Limbonic Art initially before moving towards something like Current 93, mournful trumpets and emotion-laden spoken word, throwing in Abigor-esque high-pitched riffing along the way.

I'm impressed by A Umbra Omega but also deeply relieved, having feared that Dødheimsgard would produce something tediously obtuse a la Ephel Duath, or go soft like Code. Thankfully the Norwegian legends have produced an album fitting their name, more than still black metal enough to count, fitting in well alongside their previous albums and even possibly being better than them. That I really had to think hard about it is a good sign; whatever its place in extreme metal history, 666 International is challenged by A Umbra Omega, and it's sadly too rare that metal albums made nowadays do that. I appreciate the challenge to the listener, too; cutting this album up into four-minute chunks may have made it easier to absorb, but in its current form A Umbra Omega is a far better listening experience. Arcturus are going to have to go pretty far to impress with their comeback album due later this year; for the moment, Dødheimsgard reign supreme.

Killing Songs :
Aphelion Void, The Unlocking, Architect of Darkness, Blue Moon Duel
Goat quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Dødheimsgard that we have reviewed:
Dødheimsgard - Supervillain Outcast reviewed by Goat and quoted 82 / 100
Dødheimsgard - 666 International reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
Dødheimsgard - Satanic Art reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Dødheimsgard - Monumental Possession reviewed by Goat and quoted 83 / 100
Dødheimsgard - Kronet Til Konge reviewed by Goat and quoted 76 / 100
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