Ill Omen – The Grand Usurper (2018) REVIEW

First known for his founding of notable depressive black metal project Austere in the early-to-mid 2000’s Desolate (aka M. Keepin) now known as IV provided some greater inspiration for depressive and atmospheric black metal worldwide with two fairly well renowned records. But it wasn’t just one group that triggered his ravenously dissolute occult intentions. IV would quickly expand into several projects (Funeral Morning, Pestilential Shadows, Ill Omen) between ’05-’06 as his involvement in the New South Wales black metal arena intensified. By 2010 the split of Austere coincided with the a shift of focus towards black/doom project Ill Omen and subterranean black/death project Temple Nightside. It was a new wave of innovation on both counts and Ill Omen has long stood as an expressive project heavily defined by it’s stumbling second wave black metal rhythms and abstruse compositions.

‘Divinity Through Un-creation’ (2011) was nothing less than a shambling corpse of a half-decayed wizard, cocking his scepter just low enough spray a barrage of crippling curses upon anyone within earshot. Heavily atmospheric and cryptic swarms of guitar work set a crawling pace that defined the early evolution of Ill Omen; It was less a muse for fascination than it was a ritual that felt like an impossibly cold, mystic trip outside of the self. Then came greater despair and with it the lukewarm malaise of extreme doom metal in the form of ‘Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence’ (2014). As he further experimented with the limits of atmospherics with Temple Nightside conspirator and key Grave Upheaval member BR, IV began shifting Ill Omen‘s focus towards a scowling combination of funeral doom pacing and black metal textures. ‘Æ​.​Thy​.​Rift’ (2016) was perhaps the apex of this style as it encroached upon an Altar of Plagues-esque sound seemingly informed by the structures of early Mourning Congregation.

‘The Grand Usurper’ is a step outside that great, echoing temple of deathly whispers and appears as a refined extension of IV‘s earlier Ill Omen material. The EP begins with a hit of chaos and floods itself with drowned riffing built from Burzum‘s irreverent ‘Det Som Engang Var’ and moves towards ‘Rain Upon the Unpure’ era The Ruins of Beverast as it concludes. The twisted precision of ‘Divinity Through Un-creation’ is both reborn and even further unhinged by IV‘s skilled atmospheric growls and bellows; The effect is greatest when Ill Omen appears mildly improvised and in trance on “An Eld Living Darkness”. Yet as impressed as I have been with ‘The Grand Usurper’ the final track “A Thousand Yawning Graves” features vocals that might have been mixed beyond their necessary volume and the groaning spirit of the track appears as mud following the drunken tension of the first three songs. I can highly recommend this to the sort of folks who still feel find greater power in the primal blur of records like ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’; If you’re seeking the black/funeral doom metal of Ill Omen‘s previous records this respite is something far removed, at least back to their ’05-’11 era.

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Artist Ill Omen
Type EP
Released August 10, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on Iron Bonehead Productions’ Bandcamp! Ill Omen on Metal-Archives
Genre Black Metal

Bathed in relentless howling. 3.25/5.0

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