Review: Opium Warlords – Taste My Sword of Understanding

Posted: June 20, 2014 in Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Originally posted here: http://www.thesleepingshaman.com/reviews/album-reviews/o/opium-warlords-taste-my-sword-of-understanding-cd-lp-dd-2014/

Subnote: I was particularly proud of this review, it was one where I felt at ease writing about the music. Sometimes I feel restrained, leashed by invisible forces that don’t let me get out what I want to convey. I just heard that the Roadburn Festival website picked this review to cover their ‘Record of the Day’, which was ‘Taste My Sword…’ Again humbled by the fact that the people who run such an amazing festival read my work, let alone enjoy it enough to use it on their site.

When I read that this was a release featuring a former member of Reverend Bizarre, one of my favourite doom bands ever, I thought I knew what to expect. Rollicking doom anthems mixing with a sardonic wit and riffs the size of icebergs. I couldn’t have been more wrong, but yet, I was not disappointed.

Taste My Sword of Understanding’ is a droning behemoth of an album, mixing ambient and drone doom with devastating effect. Take opening track, ‘The Sadness Of Vultures’ for example. A slow, shifting riff emerges from a gloomy atmosphere, treading between clattering chimes and buzzing feedback. It’s slow, it’s dense and very foreboding. This is a different kind of doom; dispensing with riff heavy crush fests and using the very essence of the word doom to create a feeling of desolation.

The Self-Made Man’ starts similarly. A slow, mournful riff wails from the speaker, before the first instance of drums appear and then the majestic vocals start. This is where the Reverend Bizarre link becomes more obvious, with Sami Albert Hynninen’s rich, full voice drifts over the riffs. There is a magnificent note of helplessness in his toning and phrasing, and it suits the almost funereal stylings. When the organ appears roughly halfway through, it takes it to new heights, leading to a melodic and slow guitar solo, then a storming faster ending. This is a titanic track and probably one of the finest epic doom tracks you’ll hear all year.

The God In Ruins’ leads in with a quiet melody, overlaid with growling ranting and raving. It’s a disturbing juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness, the minimalism of the actual music playing up the visceral, naked rage of the vocals. ‘The Solar Burial’ has a soothing and gentle intro as well, and plays up the ambient and ritualistic nature of the record. Subdued chanting permeates the repetitive ambience, before it launches into crashing riffs and tortured howls. ‘Taste My Sword Of Understanding’ revels in not allowing you to feel comfortable, nor complacent about what to expect next.

Land Beyond The Pole’ is possessed of a rumbling menace, shot through with jarring dissonant guitar notes. ‘Mount Meru’ is the longest track, clocking in at a whopping 14 minutes, and is a shape shifting monster. Mixing crushing doom riffs with whispering vocals, it could almost be Reverend Bizarre on a dark day. Followed by the almost shoegaze ‘This Place Has Been Passed’, the malevolent cackling ‘Manisolas From Misandria’ and the closing ‘In Melancholy Moonless Archeron’, Opium Warlords channel the aching misery of My Dying Bride to startling effect, all while retaining that element of wrongness.

Taste My Sword Of Understanding’ is a disjointed, jarring monolith of a record, equal parts heavy doom and experimental ambience. It’s a tough 70 minute ride, being essentially the aural equivalent of a nervous breakdown and people who prefer their doom a bit more straightforward will struggle with parts. But underneath the darkness and despair, there is a record that yearns to be appreciated for what it is; a twisted, bleak exorcism.

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