Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Nephren-Ka - The Fall of Omnius

Spank Sherbet's Poon

If you'd asked me to wrap up my thoughts on 2013 in a nutshell, I'd say that the French death metallers in Nephren-Ka's debut full length, The Fall of Omnius, pretty much sums everything up.  Out of all the albums I'd heard in 2012, the albums I'd rank as the exact middle of the pack would probably rank as 60-63% scores, which seems about right to me.  Obviously I'm going to listen to more things I assume I'd like, so it makes sense that the average score would be on the positive end of the spectrum.  2013?  So far here, coming up near the end of August, I'd say the middle albums are closer to 70% scores.  But with that said, in my top thirteen, there are only three albums this year that I'd rank at above 90% so far, whereas last year I'd say the full top ten was 90% or above.  So basically 2013 is the Imaginations from the Other Side to 2012's Nightfall in Middle-Earth, where there are less standout classics but it's more even and overall good on the whole.

And that's how I feel about The Fall of Omnius, nothing at all stands out in the grand scheme of things, but overall it's very well done and there isn't much to complain about.  Of course, with a name like Nephren-Ka, the comparisons to Nile are pretty much inevitable, and just like Nile, Nephren-Ka is pretty solid.  They're nothing particularly special, but they're solid-to-decent when it comes to pretty much everything.  The vocals are deep and brutal, but don't have any special X factor like Haruhisa Takahata or Frank Mullen to push them over the top, the drumming is relentless and intense, but is kind of smothered in a dry production that prevents it from breaking out like somebody like George Kollias or Pete Sandoval could muster, and the riffs are very high octane and well done, mostly keeping towards the fast chugging mindset of death metal as opposed to murky dissonance or over-the-top technicality, but they aren't supremely well written to the point of instant memorability like the Hoffman brothers or Bob Rousay could manage to write back in the day.

Yeah, it's a little unfair that I'm constantly comparing this young(?) band's debut to a bunch of classic death metal legends, but that really just kind of shows the pedigree the band is up against.  It's rough for a new death metal band to stand out nowadays when nearly everything has already been done and done well.  That's not to say that playing death metal is redundant at this point, not at fucking all, but unless you're just brimming with creativity, enthusiasm, or incredible songwriting skills, you're probably going to stand out like a dune in the Sahara.

And stealing that legendary droneriot simile brings me to my next point, the lyrical themes.  Yeah, that's probably the biggest reason this band is getting press at the moment, all of their stuff is based of Frank Herbert's legendary sci-fi series, Dune.  I don't know much about Dune, but apparently it's about some dork that everybody hates who gets transferred to some distant space world where he is instantly hailed as a messiah and then lives out eight or nine or a bazillion books living out this ridiculous wish fulfillment that he did fuck all to prove himself for.  So it's Gor, or maybe that one segment of Heavy Metal, or maybe I'm just talking out of my ass and know nothing except for the Spoony Thong and that the Sega game was nut-punchingly impossible.  The point stands that for a guy like me who knows nothing about the series, the lyrics don't do much for me.  I don't get a sense of something bigger than myself like I feel like it's supposed to evoke, so they're pretty much a non-thing for me.

Other than that, Nephren-Ka doesn't really do anything wrong, per se, but they don't do anything exceptionally right either.  They're good, don't get me wrong, I think The Fall of Omnius is a good album, but I don't see this becoming anything other than an occasional listen in the future.  Everything about it is well written and well executed, but there's nothing special about it.  There are some songs that manage to stomp out an excellent groove to go along with the pummeling double bass and strong, chunky riffing (like "Butlerian Djihad" or "Legend of Selim (Pt 1: The Seeds of Discord)", and I feel the epic closing track in "To the Golden Path" deserves mention for having some of the most heart pounding and exciting moments on the record.  But other than that, it's fairly typical riff-based tech death that doesn't have any surprises nor pull any punches.  You basically know what the entire album is going to sound like after merely a few seconds of the opening track, but it's still good shit.  I recommend it, but I don't see it becoming anything greater than just "solid".

You know, just like 2013 as a whole.

RATING - 75%

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