Review: Ophidius – The Way of the Voice
Written by The Black Metal Bitch
As a writer for a metal site one of the perks that accompanies the gig is you are constantly handed new music; for me that’s probably my favorite thing. I have access to a ton of music that I might just overlook and while sometimes. The truth is I’m a music junkie. Whether I’m out causing trouble and driving around or I’m just sitting around in my room there is a never ending procession of bands or songs and I’m absolutely thrilled about that despite the fact I’m a self proclaimed elitist bitch who only listens to the heaviest of the heavy and the blackest of the black. A few days ago I was given the latest release from New Jersey progressive Death Metal four piece, Ophidius and I won’t lie to you (I never do, brutal honesty flows past my lips like tears flow from the eyes of Trump hating liberals) I had never heard of these guys before. As you all know I am not a huge fan of Tech-Death, Progressive or pretty much anything that isn’t black metal, but as per usual I have put my personal preferences aside to give our readers a totally unbiased, no bullshit assessment and I’m happy to say this one gets a thumbs up.
While it probably will not appeal to my fellow hardcore black metal brothers and sisters Ophidius is definitely worth a listen to the rest of the metal community. It’s not super dark, there’s no singer and there are a couple parts I didn’t care for, but overall it’s a masterfully written album full of atmosphere and technical craftsmanship. While it’s short on demonic energy it absolutely has plenty of redeeming features not to be missed by fans of metal, especially fans of the progressive genre.
A good intro can set the tone of the album and The Way of the Voice does just that with its opening track ‘Overture.’ This track is a two and a half minute symphony of primitive chanting, dramatic violin work, war drums and a touch of epic, heavenly atmosphere that is present throughout the six song album.
As the opening track fades we get into the good stuff, the meat and potatoes if you will. The band does a brilliant job of painting a picture with their instruments alone as the seven minute roller coaster ride ‘The Calling’ explodes in a frenzy of double bass drums and cymbal crashes. Guitarists Peter Brown and Frank Albanese prove to be very proficient at their respective jobs as they lead and dominate with a mix of thrash and melodic death metal guitar work, which is also very reminiscent of a Swedish band I absolutely love called Darkane. It’s very heavy and I’ll even go as far as to say chaotic. But within the chaos there is always a superb level of precision. The production on The Way of the Voice is pure perfection and everything is crisp and clear, high pitched guitar solos are remarkably intricate and harmonious while retaining a very dismal and bleak overtone with the use of samples and what I can only assume to be keyboards. ‘The Calling’ winds through like a movie soundtrack, full of highs and lows and I’m actually not bothered by the lack of vocals because the instruments themselves do a sufficient job of telling the tale and providing an overwhelming amount of emotion and depth.
‘Seven Thousand Steps’ is not a huge departure from ‘The Calling’ in terms of attitude, as it has a similar feel and the ever present dysphoric tones continue. This one is a slow start, but once it kicks in you can definitely feel the progressive influence in the framework as the band creates a storm of sound with penetrating blast beats and tight, guitar playing. It’s layered perfectly as one segment leads into another and the music crashes into a crunchy crawl before climbing once again in a colorful flurry of technical solos and beautiful drum patterns. Around the halfway point the band winds down to another slow part where acoustic riffs dance with the keyboard or violins, but it’s short lived as Ophidius kick it back into gear like the climax of a Fourth of July fireworks show.
Next up is ‘Fo Sivaas,’ which has a very black metal opening with machine gun snare drum and some seriously haunting guitar work. If this track was a movie it would be the opening ten minutes of Saving Private Ryan. It’s relentless and fast, and supremely sinister and chaotic; it’s probably my favorite of the album. The previous songs flirted with darkness but this one embraces it as it unravels. Ophidius has a very “big” sound in that everything is drenched in this epic and larger than life production; despite being a four piece band it’s often times easy to confuse with some kind of heavy metal orchestra.
The fifth track is one that I’m not thrilled with in the least; entitled ‘Sky Above, Voice Within’ it’s five minutes of slow, somber violins, piano, and acoustic guitar playing loaded with angelic tones. While it’s well done and probably even beautiful, it’s a track I would skip every time if I was out cruising around. I’m simply not feeling it.
The album comes to a close with ‘The Way of the Voice,’ which opens up with that “heavenly”, kind of sad, kind of pretty tone, but quickly dives back into that brutality and intensity that I’ve been craving for the past five minutes. This one has some serious crunch to it amid the fancy mini-solos; drummer AJ Viana definitely shines on this one with impressive fills and tight double bass. He’s proven to be a machine behind the kit as he effortlessly switches between off-timed beats and those blasts. While the song (and the bulk of the album) maintains that somber and depressing atmosphere this track really grabs you and sucks you into the eye of the hurricane with catchy hooks and impressive playing all around as well as that very human, very bleak atmosphere the band seems to favor so much.
I’ll be honest, The Way of the Voice is not for everyone. I think it lacks that evil, Satanic flavor most of my friends crave and require in their music but that is not to say this one is a bad album. I’m obviously well aware there are a ton of bands (in fact, probably the majority of the metal world) that aren’t paying homage to demonic entities and Ophidius is one of them. There’s a lot to like about this album. The production is about as good as it gets and the band itself is definitely a talented group, but the music could be a bit more diverse – I’d love to see what a vocalist could do for the music, but then again these four guys from New Jersey do a fine job of delivering sans lyrics. This is a technical/progressive death metal group and I think they’ve made an album that stands on its own; the music is memorable and done extremely well and the entire album (slow parts included) just flows together as one long, majestic track. It’s not an album I thought I’d get into and while it’s not my usual cup of tea, it’s definitely worth a listen and definitely one I would recommend to fans of this particular genre. 8/10