Not much to go on here, but I did establish that OPHE is a one man avant-garde black metal outfit, and the one man likes people like DHG, Blut aus Nord, Manes and Anorexia Nervosa. So that’s good.

As for the thing itself, dissonant grimness is the way I’d describe “Somnium Sempiternum”. Insistent rapid-fire drums provide the only semblance of normality as the world is taken over by a disturbing symphony of horror and an uber-agonised vocalist. As well as the creepiness, I like its raw production. Chaos is alive and well. A feature I had been warned about was Val Dorr’s “saxophone schizophrenia” – it certainly adds a dimension to the already insane scenario. Yes, it’s Anorexia Nervosa all right with the occasional ambience of Blut aus Nord. It’s the latter’s swampy world that we enter on the mind-bending “Decem Vicibus”. Crumbling sound waves and explosions obscured the whispered language. This is not normal by anyone’s standards. It is the embodiment of ghastliness. From this we go to chanting, the scratchy saxophone and a developing black metal horrorscape. Tunes no. Riotous anarchic sounds yes. “XVIIII” is bleak and nasty. If you’re not open to this experimental dissonance, I suggest that it will open you up. Like a clown appearing through a screen, our agonised vocalist puts in his two cents as an array of violent sound distortions and that willowy saxophone make noises, which add up to …. a great deal of noise. Song lovers turn away now. This is just an expression of your worst nightmare gone wrong. Yet there is something poundingly hypnotic about all this chaos, no doubt helped by the drumming, which drills through your head. This is all useful accompaniment to sensations of insanity. “Missive Amphibiologique d’une Adynamie A La Solitude” is as obscure as its title. Mr OPHE messes with our heads one final time with the gloomy and hypnotic aura of “Cadent”. It’s the perfect antidote to “Missive Amphibiologique etc”. We were already in another world. Now we have reason to doubt it as a delicate guitar and haunting voice transport us to a disturbed land of a different kind. Brilliant. Strangely it reminded me a little of acoustic Opeth but that would be far too normal for this exceptional work.

“Litteras Ad Tristia Maestrum Solitude” is the best and most inventive album I’ve listened so far this year, which admittedly isn’t much. I’ll be surprised if I get to hear anything like it again.

(9/10 Andrew Doherty)