Do you know what? I really like F.D.A. Records. This is the second album I’ve had to review from them in the last two batches (the other being Arroganz – Primitiv), and like that release, Ophis are a bit on the obscure side of the house. It seems as if F.D.A. have a particular knack for recruiting bands that have a singular vision of what they are. Ophis are a German four piece, and this is album number four for them. I hadn’t heard any of their other works, so I can’t tell you whether this is representative of their body of work, but blimey…this is a massive sounding album.

Ophis are into misery. They’re into misery in the same way that I’m into chicken wings – which is to say that it’s a lot. The catch-all term for their brand of despair might well be classified as “death/doom”, but that in itself is such a broad term that it really doesn’t tell us much these days. Ophis aren’t your lace-hanky death/doomers; I don’t see any traces of lace cuffs or dreamy lyrics about lost love. This lot are heavier than a troupe of elephants. Which are made out of lead. Wearing heavy coats. Opener “Carne Noir” lasts a little over ten minutes, and begins with cavernous bellows and riffs that are so down tuned and drawn out that they could come from a different dimension. It’s to their considerable credit though that they manage to inject some pace and dynamism halfway through the song, which stops it from becoming a droning snooze-fest, as can occasionally be the way with this kind of music. “Engulfed in White Noise”, with its creepy sound clip introduction and clean guitar intro rumbles its way into the slow build up of pressure of huge, crashing walls of guitar. It’s a desperate, agonising crawl through nearly fourteen minutes of echoey, screamed pain. The riffing at the five minute mark is some of the most monolithic and crushing I’ve heard all year.

At six tracks long, you still get a decent amount of music for your money, given the huge length of the tracks. With some really clever writing, they’ve managed to avoid veering off into tedium country, by having just enough variation to keep things fresh. It isn’t an easy listen by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s a fairly bleak and sombre experience, though there are some brief flashes of hope from some bright sounding guitar work here and there to punctuate the dour mood. As an exploration of misery, it’s a pretty honest listen; it certainly doesn’t come across as forced and contrived as many of their contemporaries. Whether you want to sign up to such immense feelings of dismal dread is up to you, but if you’re in the market for some downbeat depression, you’d be hard pressed to find much better than this. If you need me, I’ll be brooding with my headphones on.

(8/10 Chris Davison)