A Hill To Die Upon – Omens
2011 – Bombworks Records
BUY IT NOW
I would place these guys RIGHT alongside Crimson Moonlight as the apex Christian band in this style, maybe even slightly ahead because they’re more varied, rather than just blasting speed that comes to mind with CM for me. Yes…….they are THAT good.
For starters, the production on this CD is several notches better than on Infinite Titanic Immortal. Not the same sort of “smokes the previous effort” leap that Dagon had between Paranormal Ichthyology and Terraphobic, but I don’t think there was quite as much ground to be made up, either. This is a crisp, clear effort, good separation between all the instrument/vocal tracks other than the bass and guitars (and for AHTDU’s style, you don’t WANT much separation). It sounds punchy, clear and full, but without the obvious midrange peak present on ITI. Rex Carroll did an EXCELLENT job capturing some absolutely KILLER tones and performances for the mix/master engineers to work with.
The disc is absolutely filled with AHTDU’s trademark ringing minor chords over low end rhythms, but that’s not ALL they do. They toss in a few more tricks this time around. Omens features both their fastest riffing, and their slowest, doomiest piece to date, as well as an acoustic instrumental with an “eastern” feel to it, and a piano outro on one track. There is a TON of “groove” all over this record to go along with the blasting, and several tasty leads from Elisha as well. Adam’s vocals are both clear and enunciated, yet still manage to be as harsh and aggressive as anyone. Regular listeners of black/death will have ZERO trouble deciphering the lyrics without the aid of the lyric sheet.
The tracks of note for me are:
“Darkness That Can Be Felt”: sets the mood perfectly for the entire disc from the opening note. it simultaneously manages to be both “vintage” AHTDU and let you know this is not simply carry over of the musical formula conceived on ITI.
“Heka Primus (Ordo Norma Mysterium)”: this is Elisha’s track to show what he can do. Starts off reminding me of Crimson Moonlight in a big way, then seems to shift to an almost Nile feel, twisting back and forth before shifting ever so slightly halfway thru and then unleashing a 4 part shredfest at the 2 minute mark that segues into a more melodic feel 30 seconds later, before finally ending in another blazing bit of pyrotechnics. A fitting lead into…..
“I Come as Black Fire”: Fastest riff on the disc is the main theme for the song. Reminds me of Nile again (“Lashed to the Slave Stick”), and finished off by slowing the tempos down, getting a repetitive riffing groove on, and finally fades with a short melancholic piano piece (again courtesy of Elisha). The ripping, straightforward speed of the song is EXACTLY what is called for at this point in the disc, and the way it switched gears to bring the listener back down and mellow them out is absolute perfection for the track that follows, which is…….
“Nehushtan”: the aforementioned acoustic instrumental. This piece serves as a mellow, hypnotic respite from the all out assault of heaviness and speed, without loosing any of the momentum of the “groove”, before ending and you are smacked in the face by the blistering, blasting intro of the next track.
“Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down”: A reworking of a Depression era spiritual, recorded most famously by Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin and the country band Uncle Tupelo, but numerous others as well. I’ve ALWAYS felt uncomfortable with most of what some folks term “bold for the Lord” lyrics, because all to often in the history of Christian Metal, they’ve veered off into “JPM cheese”, rather than spoken to me. I’ve been a Christian for 30 years, and a full on metalhead for 20, and I’ve just NEVER been able to enjoy that sort of thing. This track stops that feeling dead in it’s tracks. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve seen the utter passion and conviction the guys put into performing it live a few different times (at last night’s gig, it literally sent shivers down my spine) , and they actually managed to capture that in the performance, or maybe it’s because I know the guys and “get it” now instead of having some impersonal relationship with the music, I don’t know. All I know is THIS…..TRACK……ROCKS…..and that’s all YOU need to know about it as well.
“Ancient Enemy of Death”: the album closer, and it’s a simple, doomy, hypnotic that revolves around two chords. TWO chords, builds about 3 different riffs out of ’em, and just goes out and gets the groove on. did I mention it’s far slower than anything else they’ve ever done? It’s almost hypnotic and trance inducing in it’s repetition and simplicity, bringing the listener back down from the energetic feeling of the previous track, and leads you out of the disc by letting you down softly before unleashing something totally and completely unexpected after 45 seconds or so of silence. I won’t spoil the surprise….but I will say it is breathtakingly beautiful.
this is a 5 star MUST HAVE disc, folks. It’s displaced Lengsel’s Solace as my favorite Christian black metal disc, and simply TOWERS over many, MANY other efforts……
Review by: Chris Utt