Monday, 14 April 2014

Opium Warlords - Taste My Sword of Understanding (2014) / 88%

Well cooked doom with an experimental aftertaste

After Reverend Bizarre was laid to rest, Sami Hynninen decided to explore some pretty weird stuff such as the raw black metal of Armanenschaft or the minimal droney doom of The Puritan. Opium Warlords, a solo project of varied ambitions is now delivering its third offering to the goddess of doom. I'll admit I'm not quite fond of his post So Long Suckers except for his involvement in Spiritus Mortis and their marvellous album The God Behind the God but this album confirmed that he's not messing around anymore.

Taste My Sword of Understanding has been proclaimed as a more accessible album by Svart Records and it's definitely a fact. I don't dislike drone or experimental music but sometimes it's hard to accept that one of your favourite musician changed his style or simply isn't touching your taste like he used to before., “Doom Metal is Dead” was the demise motto when the Reverend was killed and while Kimi Kärki is keeping traditional doom alive with Lord Vicar, Hynninen branched out and investigated the insane. I'll say he's a pretty good detective since its new promo pictures are him wearing a tiger mask underneath a cloak in a forest. Nonetheless, this album is certainly not as fucked up as the first two of the project. While the seventy two minute release is perhaps its more varied opus to date, there's some filler that is cluttering the final result.

There's all kinds of slow here, eerie slow, crushing slow, psychedelic slow or even ballad slow. Nonetheless, I was a bit worried with the first two track since it's not my cup of tea. They three instrumental tracks are  riffier than the songs on We Meditate Under the Pussy in the Sky though.The opener “The Sadness of Vultures” is slow, plodding and the riff isn't very good,  the second instrumental track, the fifth song called “The Land Beyond the Pole” is better, the traditional doom bass line is tasty and the lo-fi aspect works. The last one on the album “Manisolas From Misandria” truly works though, it's pretty awesome and has this occult vibe and it's not cutting the flow of the album. These interludes could be seen as fillers but it gives the album  some breaks between the emotional rivers composing the sonic ocean of Sami's kingdom.

Illustrated by the esoteric lyrics, the album has this powerful somber aura. I always liked Sami's words, often giving the occult a silly yet endearing feeling. This time, it's pretty dark and spiritual, we only find our fun in the musical appreciation but there's still some lines of overt self indulgence as “pretentious doom” is even mentioned in “Mount Meru”. He's always been a mentally complex individual and his special lyrics are a big part of his projects' identity and this album is no exception. Vast, unsubtle as a fun elf on acid, it's a nice ride and even if it's not really taking itself seriously, it's intelligently done.


"Bring me your tears!!"
My excitement truly began with the second chapter “The Self-Made Man”, the twelve minutes song starts slowly, not quite differently from the two introductions. It takes its time to become awesome but the eight minute mark made me scream “Albert is fucking back!”. Deep, busy bass licks, heavy doom riffs, high clean charming, quasi operatic vocals, it's almost like someone revived the Reverend but he became more insane and forgot to take his meds for two or three months. The song that follows proves that, it's some sort of calm dirge with throaty harsh but comprehensible vocals, “The God In Ruins” almost has this depressive black metal vibe and I think it's quite wonderful, it gives the aforementioned variety an album of this length needs. This song goes back to the non full length releases of his old doom band where they probed other genres such as in the Harbinger of Metal seventy minutes long extended play! Furthermore, “The Solar Burial” contains some demented vocals mixed with haunted & whispered clean ones and there's also some ethnic or oriental influences thrown in the mix. It can almost remind me of the seminal world music explorers of Om as some parts don't have any guitars and are letting the bass flow freely, it has the same soothing yet entrancing flavour.

Nevertheless, this is surely not for doom newbies or those who suffer from some sort of attention deficit disorder. It's not a release that you'll listen to while doing your morning jogging (not that I do that sort of healthy activities!), it's reflective doom for adventurous people. Even though the album was composed between 1994 and 2009, it's very cohesive and it's a mix of the touch he mostly threw away in 2007 and some of the sounds characterizing his actual endeavours.

I would classify Taste My Sword... as experimental traditional doom, it's divergent enough from the Saint Vitus school to not be qualified as a return to Sami's roots and it's estranged enough from Live at Colonia Dignidad, the debut album of Opium Warlords to not be considered drone doom. The compositions were probably written before he got into drone and experimental, at least the ones approaching trad doom. The avant garde feel that was present on the first two albums is still here but minimally. It's more in the spirit than everywhere else. Sure it's unorthodox and out there but it's still done with the traditional doom atmosphere in mind.

The release won't change your opinion if you already hate his projects but for a fan, it feels like a fresh wind of change after his latest disappointing albums. I believe that Reverend Bizarre is dead and buried and this will have to do as a plaster on my gaping wounded void.

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