Album Review: Ophidian I – Solvet Saeclum
Release date: June 15, 2012
Label: Soulflesh Collector Records
Lyrical content: Eschatology, History, The Universe
Genre: Technical Death Metal
Solvet Saeclum is marked by a most remarkable album cover; every time I play this record, the hellish space art manages to keep me captive for at least a few minutes. The laughing skeleton and the serpentine Communist, lifting his red flag high, have a charming effect on both eyes and mind, while the large planets and numerous rockets make for a bombastic, hellish landscape.
Stylistically, Solvet Saeclum is a very interesting, as their brand of Technical Death Metal is quite unique. Many Tech Death-outfits, like Gorod and Ascariasis, have a tone, cold as ice, while Ophidian I literally burn through forty minutes of fire and brimstone, spread about over nine infernal songs.
Indeed Ophidian I leave no question about what this record sounds like; these songs must have been the soundtrack to Dante Alighieri’s descend into hell! The drums guide its frantic pace whilst the guitars portray its terrifying landscape. On top, layered screams and grunts form the ejaculations of both demons and tortured souls; a lively and truly scary record once the listener gets into it.
It is remarkable that guitarists Unnar Sigurðsson and Halldór Símon Þórolfsson often make use of the phrygian scale, giving the record a general Oriental feeling, quite reminiscent of A Hill to Die Upon’s Eclipse of the Serpents.
This atmosphere is further conveyed near the end of Zone of Alienation, where the band’s burning technicalities wind down to a slightly chaotic passage, showing off some wonderful Eastern instrumentation!
The drums are frantic. Drummer Tumi Snær Gíslason blasts away, leaving little room for his bandmates to breathe, in a positive manner that is. Where there is room for a fill, Tumi Snær doesn’t only show excellent velocity, but also a priceless ability to groove. Really, the drums on Solvet Saeclum are a secret gem.
As is bass player Þórður Hermansson who easily keeps up with the manic pace that Solvet Saeclum calls its own. Many-a-times, Þórður outwalks his fellow bandmates, which makes for some awesome filling and soloing, notably half-way through the songs Shedyet and The Discontinuity of a Fundamental Element.
The vocals are titanic. The many voices of vocalist Ingólfur Ólafsson, in combination with the frequent multiple layerings, add a whole new dimension to Solvet Saeclum. Again I make the comparison with A Hill to Die Upon, as both Adam Cook and Ingólfur carry a truly epic and heavy intonation in their voices, making them worthy of the title of Titan.
Production-wise Solvet Saeclum is well-executed. The mix is clear, crisp, yet it retains a certain crunch, however, it is obviously centred around the vocals, while lead guitars are kept at a low volume, even when they are soloing. This leaves a gap in the music when there are no vocals, making this album sound slightly unbalanced. Subject to the same fallacy are the cymbals on the drums; bass drums, the snare drum, hi-hat and ride cymbal are properly amplified, but the crashes lag behind.
However, despite the previously mentioned blemishes, the production on this record is more than up to par. The bass excellently distinguishable, while not overly present and the many layers of guitars and vocals are easily comprehended by the listener.
Ophidian I leave the world a most worthy effort, which is both technically great as well as music-wise. The few flaws in production may be disregarded by many, and that makes Solvet Saeclum a must-buy for any self-respecting Tech Death-fan. An excellent debut; it leaves me craving for more…
My Grade: 8.0/10
Buy this when:
- you enjoy Technical Death Metal
- you are looking for a fresh and young, yet skilled band to listen to