SomnusAs a quick glance at the band name and record label should tell you, this is gloomy doom-death from Eastern Europe, in this case the Czech Republic. ‘On the Shores of Oblivion’ is the band’s first full length, and it makes for a pretty decent debut.  It’s quite polished and gothic-sounding, with an abundance of tinkling keyboards and moody melodic doom riffs.  At times it can be quite poppy, with a warm and squeaky-clean Insomnium feel to it, but the main influence that stands out would have to be classic Opeth. The lead guitarist is clearly talented, and there are warm, bluesy riffs underlying most of the songs, whilst the vocals are a frequently-impressive mix of guttural growls and layered rasps that have Mikael Akerfeldt written all over them. It’s still plodding, synthy doom-death at heart, but with the bleak, autumnal spirit of ‘My Arms Your Hearse’ and ‘Blackwater Park’ creeping in here and there at times, through the dirgey, winding riffs and subdued clean interludes of ‘Decrepitus’, for example, which marries the style to a soaring doom riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Mourning Beloveth album.

The songs tend towards the poppy rather than the epic however, all running at around five minutes maximum, and it tends to be individual riffs that stand out more than the actual songs. It often sounds like a doom-death take on Dark Tranquillity; melodic with a soft and polished production, heavy on the keyboards, and with its murky, doomy passages tempered by surging, up-tempo rhythms. Other tracks employ tremolos and neoclassical keys, giving them a shiny gothic BM feel. It’s frequently too bland and sickly-sweet for me, but that’s more of a taste issue than anything else in all fairness.

It’s the lead guitar that remains the strong point throughout the album though, bouncing off the rhythm guitar brilliantly and frequently piercing otherwise unremarkable songs with interesting, satisfying riffs that belie a range of influences. In many places it’s the solid, effortless-sounding solos that hold the songs together. There’s a sense of experimentation in the guitars throughout; ‘Of the Bond’ for example employs a catchy Forgotten Tomb-style hook, whilst ‘A Touch of Insanity’ has some solid, straight-up heavy metal riffs, albeit buried beneath an avalanche of cheesy synth. ‘Everything is a Lie’ is far and away the most dynamic song however, again down to its Opeth influences, from bluesy soloing to erratic, proggy time-signatures and those trademark bouncy, dirgey riffs. It progresses fluidly, and feels more alive and full of spark than anything else on the album, and there’s a real sense of cohesion and energy that is often frustratingly lacking elsewhere.

‘On the Shores of Oblivion’ is a decent effort all things considered, with a fair old bit of variety on offer throughout, even if it does overdose on the keyboards and the polish from time to time. It’s lead guitar-work that really stands out however, and it’s this that pushes the band up to an above-average score.

(7/10 Erich Zann)