Sunday, December 28, 2008
Umbra Nihil - The Borderland Rituals (2008)
Since their excellent debut Gnoia a few years ago, I had been eagerly awaiting the next doom opus from one of Finland's weirdest bands. I have to say, while I couldn't get into this nearly as much as that earlier work, it's still an interesting piece which strips the form to its roots, re-visiting the psychedelia from which the prototype doom (and arguably all of metal) sprung forth.
There are only five tracks here, but a few of them are on the length side. "Welcome to the Borderlands" is a slow, psychedelic piece alternating sparse, spacious riffing with Vilpir's manly and creepy vocal slug crawling. By the end it picks up with a simplistic, heavier riff accompanied by highly fuzzy bass. "Open the Gate" takes a simple, twining, mystical riff with a folkish feel to it and drives it into a cradle of despair. "Leaving the Body" is a short song for this band at just about 3 minutes, starts off as an instrumental but the vocals come in half way through, while "Sea of Sleep" is a delicate but immersive instrumental with tinny leads and effective atmosphere. The closing track "The Sign of Death" is the album's longest, over 14 minutes, and easily the most powerful thing here. When he starts crooning the 'chorus' like sections over those evil as fuck riffs, and you can hear the slight use of the keyboard to accent the sorrow and grim majesty of the song, it's just magic.
The mix on the album is very simple and organic, they could be playing this live right in your living room. The instruments all sound great. The drums may seem a little thin but it feels intentional. In the end this is not as good as Gnoia but if you're a fan of avant-garde or 70s doom rock/metal then you should at least check it out for it's magnum opus, "The Sign of Death", which'll do almost any old Sabbath or Pentagram lover good.
Verdict: Win [7/10]