Review: OVEROTH – “The Forgotten Tome”… Posted: 15/02/2018 by Philip Morrissey
Change is a process that has to be handled very delicately by bands. Especially those in the extreme genres such as death metal. When done properly, it can help elevate them on to the next level and to a wider arena. It is essential it is done with care though. Generally it takes place through gradual evolution. Outfits may be influenced through the introduction of new members bringing in their sounds. Or perhaps via tours and festivals with a variety of different groups who they may not have been in contact with previously. Even with an established band, it can bring about a new spark. Bands such as BEHEMOTH, OPETH, KATATONIA, AT THE GATES AND CARCASS all saw their commercial and critical appeal increase massively when a stylistic shift was employed. And then there are many bands who it doesn’t work for. If a change is done for the wrong reasons, fans will quickly pick up on it. Following a trend fashionable at the time, leaving behind a solid fan base or being a pale imitation of themselves will be clear for all to see. IN FLAMES, MORBID ANGEL, PARADISE LOST, ENTOMBED, SEPULTURA AND THERION all saw derision and backlash when they adapted their trademark sounds.
And it is ‘perhaps’ with the latter example that we have to introduce our subject here. OVEROTH formed in 2005 around Belfast with the intention of playing no frills death metal. They have been extremely familiar with audiences across Ireland and various sojourns in Europe. They have shared stages on tours and festivals with some of the best death metal bands around such as BOLT THROWER, OBITUARY, ROTTING CHRIST, CATTLE DECAPITATION, NAPALM DEATH and more. The early days may have seen a certain switch around of personnel, but the massively positive response to their “Pathway to Demise” demo in 2006 and “Death Personified” E.P in 2007, solidified their reputation. This was emphasised by the release of their debut L.P, “Kingdom of Shadows” in 2010. For many people, they were a better representation of bands such as MORBID ANGEL than the band themselves. An extremely solid and hard work ethic also endeared them to many. But seven years without any sort of release is quite some time. The band themselves stated that much of it was put down two years ago but they choose to lay more down in sounds since then. The introduction of orchestration intrigued and worried many in equal measure. How much does the change affect them?
‘Opus Obscura’ is one of those non-essential instrumental starters. Not particularly bad as such but doesn’t really add anything to proceedings. Strings are melodic and subtle to begin with until it gets increasingly bombastic. Background choral voices can be heard until the clanging of church bells finishes it off. ‘Sigil Of The Empty Throne’ kicks off as a proper death metal offering. Guitars and drums to the fore. Definitely a sense of a band who know what they are doing. The vocals appear and they are downright crushing. A perfect replication of the MORBID ANGEL/IMMOLATION era of death metal. The guitars from Daniel Dempster and Andrew Pennington come together wonderfully and it is an example of the step up in the production stakes. Andy Ennis’s bass locks in with an instrumental segment prior to the vocals again. The pace slows and quickens according to the situation demanded. The guitars take dominance with drumming backing them up and great screams on display. A duel then breaks out between the two players. A thick and chunky bass pops up to lead into another flat out display from all. A piano piece sounds rather curious however towards the end. ‘Winter Of Iniquity’ has another damned solid opening. Plenty of focus on the guitars and drums with an air of drama and gravitas. Killer riffs and brutal vocals combine with some solid drumming. A guitar solo breaks through briefly before the vocals descends it all to the depths of hell. There is a serious hatred and spite to them and displays how good of a front-man he is. A serious depth and weight to it all. Vocals dip in and out of the sections but maintains its balance regardless. They drop away to let the playing shine again.
‘The Keeper’ is yet another example of the power the band can, and does, provide in the live arena. The riffing is of the highest quality and on par with ‘God Of Emptiness’… another example of the MORBID ANGEL sound. The blast-beats from Jay Rodgers provide for a suitable ally as well. The vocals are slightly more restrained than in previous offerings but still decent enough. A guitar solo leads us into an instrumental interlude before delving back in again. A few growls make themselves known as the playing gets increasingly choppy in nature. A blasting section portrays some intense drumming with possible use of backing or layered vocals to give them more power. More fantastic riffing and drumming come to the fore. Proceedings begin to fade gradually before a bizarre piece towards the end which takes away from it slightly. ‘God Of Delusion’ sees a fast and energetic opening which could be on the heavier side of thrash. Think SODOM, KREATOR, DARK ANGEL and MORBID SAINT. The vocals remain slightly muffled but it is not too much of a distraction due to the amount of venom and spite contained within. There is a great atmosphere created through the drumming and guitars. The latter in particular are fluid and varied displaying the bands technical abilities. They are able to go through the gears as demanded. Some delightfully blasphemous lyrics are belched forth through some unearthly growls. The pace is kept up to the very end. This , along with ‘The Keeper’ had been released as videos prior to the release of the album.
It’s title number has another tempo opening with guitars and drums locking together nicely. A series of riffs leads into a segment of Gregorian chanting. Considering what had gone before it, this seems to be very much out of place. Especially when it delves right back into death metal territory afterwards. The faintest hints of strings are heard and they seem equally as an uneven match. A note heavy widdling guitar piece breaks that cycle with sweeps and dive bombs a plenty. The orchestration remains to be odd, though. While the playing remains quite impressive. When the guitars in particular are allowed to shine, it remains a decent track. A drop in tone for the vocals almost reduces them to the point of spoken word. The strings remain the predominant feature during this, before it switches back again. A slower pace emerges, with the occasional snare beat complete with low growling vocals and melodic guitars. It sees a riff repeated over a steadily increasing drums and vocals. It falls away to leave the strings towards the end. ‘Leviathan Swallowed The Sun’, suspends the usual flow and sees a low Gregorian style opening. A few crashes away in the background with female choir providing the voices sets itself up for being bombastic but really kills the mood. ‘Mar the Gates’ is more typical of what you would expect from them. A powerful drumming on show and a solid set of riffs on display. The vocals remain quite strong. Plenty of opportunities for the playing to show off. The riffs are sustained at a heady weight, the bass is thick and consistent and the drumming is on the money. Full of great moments and particularly a guitar solo which soars above it all. The vocals re-appear and work to a tee. More soloing weaves in and out of it. Damn solid.
‘Harbringer Of The End Times’ features impressive heaviness to kick events off with. Pummeling drums and intricate guitars lock together splendidly. The pace and tempo are kept quite high. Proceedings gradually slow down with some melodic lines and the occasional thud from the drums. As they begin to lock into the bass lines, things become increasingly heavier. The vocals, by now, are on top form. A slowed down guitar section eventually leads into the strings puncturing through yet again which drags it down. This is particularly true when a rasping section bleeds into another splendid sequence. The vocals and playing are still of a high standard though. A series of riffs leads into a high tempo segment complete with with high paced drumming and great vocals. A guitar solo breaks out from both and now all are on crushing form. But then it reverts back to more melodic lines to accommodate the strings and it really just kills the mood. Closer ‘Shadows in a Thousand Shades of Black’, sets off with a high tempo with powerful riffing, consistent drumming and unholy vocals. A pattern emerges of guitars and drums which is extremely impressive. In between the blast beats, the symphonic elements can be heard again and it really kills the flow again. When they dive back into their pattern of death metal, the contrast is evident. A segment of drums and guitars is weighed down with more choral exchanges. Against the main vocals, it doesn’t match. During some of the pieces, it works to a degree, but that is few are far apart. As it goes through the phases, a fast an intense segment develops which is hard hitting and violent. Some excellent solos as part of it. A piano/string section begins to take over again. It is well performed but not the closing that many would have wanted or expected out of the band.
The band have stated that this is not a recent development. It was argued traces of it were evident already in their debut album. It is perhaps the level which is present that creates such a problem for their long-term fans. For many, it seems as if they are trying to replicate the success enjoyed by the likes of BEHEMOTH or SEPTIC FLESH. For some, it could be the dreaded name of DIMMU BORGIR arises. The band’s class of death metal suggests a certain feel, a particular attitude and a sense of spite and hatred. And the strings and other disparate elements breaks up their sonic attack on too many occasions. There is also the feeling that in polishing up the sound and production, they have lost a degree of the raw mood and danger they used to possess. The drums, while at a high standard, at times seem to have an overly processed feel. Not all negatives though. The guitars sound absolutely fantastic and the vocals are some of the best they have laid down so far.
Frustratingly, this seems to be more of a crossroads album than would have been anticipated by the band. The band had developed so organically through their early years and were an integral part of the metal underground. To employ such off-the-shelf sound effects seems like them attempting to sound like so many other bands. Whether they will gain any additional fans as a result of this move, remains to be seen. And where they go from here is up to the band themselves. But it is going to be difficult. To revert back to their more familiar style could be seen as regression. And to continue on, may result in reducing levels of success. I can but wish them good luck with it. Having played a number of dates across Ireland, including the Siege of Limerick, they then embarked on a few shows in Switzerland. And will play Cork’s URBAN ASSAULT Metal Fest on the 24th February. No plans announced at the moment for the rest of 2018 but no doubt they have something in mind. Lets hope they keep this sense of adventure while retaining more of the identity of the band we all know and love.