The brand of occult black metal that Ill Omen excels at exists somewhere in the realms between Deathspell Omega dissonance, funeral doom and pure ritualistic noise. It’s the kind of album that’s probably going to click right into your listening schedule or you’re going to have the uncomfortable feeling that it’s an album made up of all the overly atmospheric filler tracks you normally skip through to get to the meat on the bones. In short, it’s the kind of album I like. The kind of music that might well get a rise from you if you like the idea of Dødsengel, Nightbringer or Svartidauði but are worried it’s all a bit fast and fussy. The kind of album that I can imagine myself sitting in a darkened room surrounded by those black-hole riffs and reverberating bass all sprinkled with discordant black metal designed to tug away at your senses as you get sucked into the lifeless vortex created by band mastermind IV.
Things feel much more stripped back than previous efforts, much less black and more reliant on heavy, repetitive doom-like riffs. It feels like a bit of a ritualistic risk as the previous couple of albums were pretty much on the nail. This stuff can easily derail especially when it’s built around 13 minute tracks that do not give themselves up easily out of the blackened mire from whence they come. So it’s all about the delivery. Slowly evolving white cold pressure that shifts at glacial pace and which provides time for reflection on what exactly might be driving the cycles of this cold, unthinking universe.
IV – who is also a member of Nazxul and has collaborated with musicians involved with Drowning The Light, Vassafor, Ulcerate and Pestilential Shadows which should give you a vague idea of what we are dealing with here, does not rely too much on atmospherics and production. Although those things taken in isolation are still impressive. Even the shortest track II Æ.Thy.Rift, a grinding ritual drenched in cosmic black, manages to create a timeless warp that then bleeds almost seamlessly into the penultimate gravity well that is (you guessed it) III Æ.Thy.Rift.
The blackened funeral march, like Burzum doing funeral doom, constantly threatens to add density and pressure as it progresses down into its own lightless void but perhaps never quite turns the screw as it felt like it was doing on earlier tracks. In fact, there are times on Æ.Thy.Rift when I was urging it on to new depths just so |I could feel that extra claustrophobic weight on my feeble bones squeezing the wind out of my lungs. It’s there, almost, although just at the point when that happens I felt like IV was holding back.
Maybe that the point: the ecstatic, life crushing blow is never quite delivered. Leaving you to ponder your worthless existence and know that your end will not be glorious or pleasurable. Dispassionate gods leaving you in your final hours to pass away ungratified into infinity. Or maybe Æ.Thy.Rift just gets a bit lost along the way. But if music – or at least pulsing, distorted noise – that sucks the life out of you is your thing then let me introduce you to Ill Omen. Parts of Æ.Thy.Rift provide will provide you with an atmospheric overload of circular riffs and repetition buoyed by driving rhythms and vocal effects woven into the body of the music. It might be enough to put a smile on your face.
(7.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)