Sothis - De Opresso Liber
Symphonic Black Metal
9 songs (48:26)
Release year: 2008
Reviewed by James
Surprise of the month

It's always quite nice to stumble across a few pleasant surprises when reviewing, and when it comes from a genre like symphonic black metal, generally known for being a bit iffy, the surprise is doubled. Sothis hail from America, but unlike many of their countrymen, they exchange the sludgy, swampy atmosphere of most USBM for something with a bit more pomp and circumstance. The band reckon from Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk-era Emperor, or perhaps a less ridiculous Dimmu Borgir. OK, so perhaps originality isn't Sothis' strong suit. There are at least a few clean guitar passages here and there, which while cribbed from Immortal still make a nice break from the norm. I suppose Sothis also deserve a little respect for making a kind of black metal that perhaps isn't so fashionable in America instead of ripping off Xasthur like so many others do. Of course, this would mean nothing if the songs didn't hold up, so let's dive in and see how they fare.

The record starts off fast and heavy with Of Night And Silence, but it's not until the title track that follows it up that we get to see what the band are capable of. De Opresso Liber is a complex and well put together track, mixing up blasts and tremelo riffing with moments of thrashy chugging and an extended guitar solo. It's clear that this point that Sothis have musical ability, and employ it well when crafting there songs. Beneath A Boiling Sky is admittedly quite similar to the preceding track but if you're going to write two similar songs, you may as well make them good ones.

But occasionally Sothis stray a little close to the land of plagiarism. Much of the keyboard lines seem to be Emperor cast-offs, and Lunar Descent sounds a little too close to Thus Spake The Nightspirit. As it's their debut there is much room for growth and originality, and at this point in time their shtick hasn't worn thin. Hopefully, they will grow and progress in future albums, or there won't be much chance for them in the long run. Still, I have faith in them that they can use their compositional skills to make something fresh and exciting, and I wish them luck in future endeavours.

Despite being fairly accessible as black metal goes, De Opresso Liber never feels like a sell-out. The guitars are thick and heavy and never get drowned out by the keys. Although I was worried they'd crop up on my first listen, I am certainly pleased to say there are no cringe-inducing clean vocals here, however tempting it was to put them in. The band have also shied away from the embarrassing faux-gothicism that some bands employ (not naming any names...), keeping it fairly unpretentious. The promo pics are a tad silly, for sure, but Immortal have shown that's no representation of music quality.

Yes, it's a bit lacking in depth, yes, it doesn't really break new ground, but Sothis have put together a slick, accomplished debut. There's certainly time for them to grow from here, if given a chance. From the looks of their slick, shiny Myspace page and press release, Sothis are being pushed as the next big thing by Candlelight. And good luck to 'em I say. Sure, it won't coax the kvlt-kiddies away from their Burzum records, but Sothis are clearly not about that anyway. Despite clearly setting their sights for the top, Sothis never try to be something their not. Watch this space, because these guys could definitely make it to the big leagues.

Killing Songs :
De Opresso Liber, Beneath A Black Boiling Sky, Defiance
James quoted 75 / 100
Alex quoted 67 / 100
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