Friday, July 13, 2018

Dire Omen - Formless Fires Embodied EP (2018)

While they still might not register the same visibility as some of their Canadian counterparts also trailblazing the visceral crossroads of death and black metal aesthetics, Dire Omen has proven by this point that they're well worth the effort to check out if you're at all a fan of an Aurochs, Mitochondrion, or Antediluvian, or others worldwide who commingle the suffocating miasma of antiquated death metal with spastic, dissonant runs that often fall more into the camp of frenzied, blackened post-modern extremity. Formless Fires Embodies is a smaller dose of dizzying restlessness than their Dark Descent debut Wrestling the Revelation of Futility from 2014, but it's a great example of how just adding a little something extra can elevate a medium from stagnation to the death metal deli counter.

Fresh to order. What I mean by that 'little something' in the case of this EP is how each of the three tracks' harrowing, chaotic subterranean density is sliced through by some degree of middle or higher pitched, heavily dissonant guitars which immediately lends it a new layer of atmosphere. Obvious examples of this are in the creepy waning moment of "Malkuth", where bewitching harmonies create a haze of paranoia before the EP closes out. Or in "Null", an all-out assault on the senses, when the spikes of fragmented, Voivod-like guitars blanket a phrase over the blunt gutturals and lightly grooving bass lines, before they just erupt back into blasting your noggin off. Passages like these catapult Dire Omen beyond what might otherwise prove a more clinical exercise in the style, and while the bulk of the material here might tend towards the more straightforward and aggressive, it's that detailing which had me wanting to revisit the tracks rather than any of their brutality.

The production of the EP is definitely as dingy and claustrophobic as their past work, placed organically underground without ever shifting over towards vaulted, ominous inaugural Incantation worship. The vocals are used primarily like brute neolithic grunts that serve as an additional percussive weight alongside the drums, and to be honest I wouldn't mind if a bit of effects were placed on them just to have them stand out slightly more. They're intrinsic to the style, but perhaps a little dry and redundant when the music around them is so much more spastic. This is more about the mix than their syllabic placement, and in fact I think the tunes in general could benefit from a more brazen approach, where the guitars more boldly churn through your intestines and the drums cave in your skull. Beyond that lack of gloss, however, there is so little to complain about, and these tunes are equivalent in quality to that prior full-length. If you're seeking an experience bordering on Portal or Abyssal, only 'unmasked', or you're out tacking into the warping winds of chaos-born, dissonant death metal, Dire Omen should be at the other end of your spyglass, approaching with haste.

Verdict: Win [7.75/10]

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