For fans of Austrian multi-genre metal entity Estatic Fear, the stuff which is laid down on Somnium Obmutum
is nothing short of ground breaking. Genius, even. Their second, and most likely last, album A Sombre Dance
is much the same, but on a more grand scale. This album is like a more raw, but much improved version of A Sombre Dance
, an album which is hard to top in the first place. However, their more unappreciated debut album goes leaps and bounds over what is put forth on A Sombre Dance
, while also taking it to amazingly epic proportions in terms of complexity and variation. Here we have it, Somnium Obmutum
, a four track, 1 hour monolith with a 32 minute, 13 second title track, an 18 minute, 32 second closer, and two instrumentals which clock in at 1 minute, 49 seconds and 4 minutes, 17 seconds respectively. Sure, songs like this have been done before, but never have I heard a single track which is over a half hour melt away so quickly, literally appear and then vanish, like the title track “Somnium Obmutum” does. Estatic Fear’s trick is not in pummeling riff-laden verses and then epic, catchy choruses, but is done through an almost novel-like approach. There are no choruses to speak of, no verses or solos or bridges or (god forbid) breakdowns, just straight music.
This band just goes out there and plays an aural novel. The guitars are the main focus, playing a constant bombardment of harmonized, insanely melodic riffs at a pace which is much like doom metal, slow and steady. Multiple times during the two “real” tracks do the electric guitars take a break to let a transition piece come forward, such as a piano softly playing a repeated ominous set of notes or an acoustic guitar slowly picking away at the seconds on the clock. The trick, though, is doing this in a way in which the listener is constantly enthralled in what is going on (this is, after all, a half hour song, and the human attention span these days is barely a third of that). A lot of the riffs are similar, some the same, but never do they overstay their welcome. They play in a way that makes the listener constantly appreciate them; they play for a while, then just as you begin to want another riff, lo and behold another one starts. Later in the song, we hear a similar riff drift back in amidst the double bass, the keyboards, and the rolling electric guitar riffs. It’s an ingenious way in which the band keeps you very, very comfortable during a span of time this large, because you always know that you are listening to the same song just by the way the riffs are re-introduced back into the music sometime later in the song. It’s so simple in it’s theory and so effective in its practice it’s a wonder why it’s so hard to pick out in many other bands who do things along the same lines.
The interest in this album doesn’t end with the constant flow of amazing riffs either, the atmosphere is set by the vocals, and the story of each song is told as such. In A Sombre Dance
, the raspy screams bear a very startling resemblance to Mirrorthrone, but this similarity is virtually nonexistent with this album. They are a throaty, raspy hiss which is something like a lower-toned version of your standard black metal fare. Also included are straight-up death metal vocals which are guttural and low, also slow in their delivery like doom metal band Swallow The Sun uses their vocals. But let’s not forget the wonderful female vocals, which were used to such outstanding effect on A Sombre Dance
. This being their debut album, you can tell the band was a bit more tentative in their use of this style of vocal delivery, since they are used much, much more sparingly but still have that lasting effect that this music is not even close to being all, you know, metal
. Some points are so quiet and emotional they feel like moments out of an opera show, with soft piano and acoustic guitar backing seemingly far-off, yet beautiful female singing. Quite a piece for the atmosphere of this album, might I say.
We cannot forget that there is more to this album than simply two very long tracks. The instrumental which is sandwiched between these two monsters is called, very appropriately, “As Autumn Calls”. What we are treated with here is one of the best nature-oriented instrumentals I’ve certainly ever heard. It’s beginning sets a very mysterious tone with an awesome keyboard melody over a really clean sounding thunderstorm. The thunder is very clear and sounds like it is probably real, cracking left and right as you hear the rain falling and the wind blowing a gale. It’s a piece which simply adds to that feeling of solitude I described in the first paragraph. It becomes a duet with both the flute and the piano towards the end, with the flute playing a melody which does not sound over the top and cheesy, like most flute pieces sound like when they are included in a metal album. This attitude toward nature is transcended into the next track, the astounding closer “Ode To Solitude”, which kicks off with the same whipping wind and the sound of footsteps running over dead leaves. An interesting piece which may remind you a bit of the infamous “running through the woods” portion of folk black metal band Ulver’s Bergtatt
, although not even close to the same in terms of length.
Also a track which goes largely unappreciated is the opener “Des Nachtens Suss' Gedone”, a track which includes solely an acoustic guitar picking away at the same amazing and tranquil melody through it’s entire running time, a near perfect way to begin and an awesome introduction to the melodic and epic riff which kicks off the title track. To put it simply, the instrumentals in Somnium Obmutum
compliment the songs they precede nearly perfectly. It’s a brilliant use of purely instrumental music as a way not just to make the album sound “deep” and “emotional” like some metal albums use them for, but as a way to help ease the listener into the song which is about to be right on top of them like a blizzard during the middle of winter.
There really is nothing left to say about this album other than the fact that every single person who enjoys metal owes it to themselves to give Somnium Obmutum
a listen. It is one of the best and most original pieces of music in the genre, and is so criminally unnoticed that it will make you mad that other bands steal the spotlight. Something which will also bug you is the fact that after listening to this complete masterpiece, the fact that this band will probably never produce another piece of music will hit you like a ton of bricks. Sure, it’s a god damn shame that bands which are so obviously gifted as Estatic Fear fly under the radar of nearly everyone, but what you can do to help bring this band out from under the dirt is to go out there and take just one
listen to Somnium Obmutum
. I can guarantee you that you have never heard anything like this before, and I can assure that you will never hear anything like it ever again.