Review Summary: Pay no attention to the big f*cking spider.
In a genre typically defined by its penchant for outrageous spectacles, Omnerod are perfectly at home. Yes, there are plenty of pertinent, positively burning questions raised by third record The Amensal Rise
--why is there an air balloon? What is the spider? Why is the spider on the air balloon? Who is rising and why are they falling by the end of the album? Can I pet the spider?--but I have one better: does that nonsense really
matter? This all is simply the backdrop for progressive metal’s most unashamedly bold release of the year, granting it an appropriately epic atmosphere as it plows through towering soundscapes, allowing vague allusions to narratives of loss, betrayal, victory and defeat to be colored in by complex musicianship. There’s oodles of absurdity to appreciate in the Belgian quartet’s latest work, spanning from lush symphonic arrangements, crushing grooves, and soaring refrains buttressed by cacophonous guitarwork.
Owing to its grand scale--the album spans over an hour, with four of its seven tracks reaching beyond the ten minute mark--the sound emerging from The Amensal Rise
is unapologetically massive. It’s something immediately flaunted by the introductory number “Sunday Heat” and its pounding drums, down-tuned-to-hell guitars, and booming orchestral swells. Dramatic clean vocals bleed in and out of devastating growls, combining with the instrumental assault to concoct an approach that sounds like the Earth is being cracked in half. This larger-than-life aesthetic endures for the entirety of the LP, catapulted by the successive “Satellites,” which spirals through sporadic melodic chords, symphonic flourishes, backbreaking rhythms, and violent blast-beast outbursts. The pressure (and volume) is constantly at an apex, making the occasional instances of calm--intermittent spells of electronic ambiance, chimes, gentle strumming, and classical strings--all the more compelling, with the relative silence disguising the destruction brewing underneath.
Omnerod will dive into randomness like any good prog metal band metal can, sprinkling in jazzy interludes or 70s rock guitar solos (this does happen in “To the Core” for some reason) with a sly wink-and-nudge routine, but their songwriting never veers too far into slapstick levels of sh*t-thrown-at-wall. The group’s knack for careful crescendos and elongated progressions links separate sections, permitting songs to consistently hit a higher gear. Distorted, rhythmic guitars can seamlessly transition into furious death metal riffing, swerve into djent-inspired grooves that provide sufficient B O U N C E to proceedings, disappear into light acoustics, then leap into a soaring, melodic finale. It’s a brazenly bombastic style, generating a plethora of memorable passages ranging from the slow development of “Spore” as it reaches its resonating chorus, to the devastating groove laid down by “Magnets” and its no-holds-barred structuring. The latter is a stellar example of Omnerod’s compositional strengths at an apex, subtly ebbing onward until the tension spikes in a resounding lyrical refrain.
The influences swirling about in The Amnesal Rise
are many, taking cues from contemporaries a la The Reticent--concept-wise and scale-wise, as both acts live for winding, long-form prog rockers--a pinch of Xaon’s groovy death metal, the sprawling sonic environments of U.K.’s Spires, and the uncompromising orchestral-infused heaviness of Ovid’s Withering. It’s an atypical assortment of -core and prog outfits, and their combination yields a stellar, gigantic tale that brings intriguing compositions and relentless headbanging. In that regard, the Belgian gang’s appeal is twofold: they’re capable of artfully balanced restrained passages buoyed by melodic tones and violent assaults, staging both under a polished, thick production that accentuates the record’s calculated strikes. It’s a gloriously theatrical experience, lovingly embellished with prog metal cheese while keeping a keen ear to carving out a unique voice in an ever-crowded genre. Leave any lingering questions behind; let the wondrous absurdity reign instead.