GNOSIS – Omens From the Dead Realm (2021)REVIEW

You question me carefully, O Far-worker; yet I am not jealous that you should enter upon my art: this day you shall know it. For I seek to be friendly with you both in thought and word. Now you well know all things in your heart, since you sit foremost among the deathless gods, […] Now, you are free to learn whatever you please; but since, as it seems, your heart is so strongly set on playing the lyre, chant, and play upon it, and give yourself to merriment, taking this as a gift from me, and do you, my friend, bestow glory on me.” Homer, Hymn to Hermes

On Hermes’ blazing roads these long errant, long-fingered psykhopompos drag us in quartered pieces, aether-bleeding arms and snapping mouths snatching at the dirt and grass to prevent the dragging of our diseased souls below. Yet these are not justice’s tormentors or daimon by the god-hand, they are nameless soul eaters and geist from south-lying swamps who’d prey upon those opportunistic abominant stuck within the veil and hungering for the rediscovery of olde magick, necromancy that’d reinstate our dissolved flesh. Tireless scavengers and protectors of the ancient ways, we owe them thanks even as they devour into abysm. Obscure and unwilling to engage with anything less than the noumenon of their own traditional, devout creation one could argue that Miami, Florida-based black/death metal trio Gnosis see and seek only what is real with truly admirable resolve. Their third full-length album, ‘Omens From the Dead Realm‘, sees death for the sorrowful scenery it is while also balking at the infinite sensation of the underworld and the endless tumult of the Gods themselves. Here the young artists stride heartily within the afterlife, or another life at least, while managing a meaningful continuation of their previous death worship. In practical terms, the niche they’ve honed their craft around can consider this album an immaculate record. To anyone else but the cult, a stirring idiosyncrasy and ambition that is yet admirable.

Today it would be fair to describe Gnosis as a black metal band chiefly concerned with devotional Hellenic black metal meter/rhythm with their own shades of black/death metal applied. When they’d formed as a quartet in 2013 things moved incredibly fast and because of this their earlier sound is still recognizable as the same band we experience today but, it was more a product of less focused taste at the time. Forming a band and recording an impressive debut full-length (‘The Third Eye Gate‘, 2015) in the space of less than two years didn’t find the original line-up lacking in ideas or quality control, landing in the right place on Nuclear War Now! and gaining fandom for their sound which I’d likened to Acheron and Mystifier at the time. There were additional shades of Necros Christos and the auld strengthened force of black/death metal that would start to cool off as the line-up would shift towards their second full-length (‘The Offering of Seven‘, 2018) which added perhaps the most key actor on ‘Omens From the Dead Realm’, R.P. whom would take up vocals after that album. That second record was my introduction to Gnosis and made for a favorable review where I’d obviously been unsure of their direction just yet, nonetheless that fine line between classic black/doom movement and the shuddering eeriness of Varathron was still unforgettable. As my fellow Cemetery Lights fans can attest, this a subtle cult but a powerful point of black metal worship once it has clicked with you, though I will say that Gnosis are taking no chances here with this third album by invoking ‘Walpurgisnacht’ and ‘Eosphoros‘ without wasting a second getting there.

Of course this means that for many folks there will be little immersion beyond references to classic off-kilter black metal albums — From my point of view there is some endless value to paying careful attention to the studious refinement of this school of black metal craft in the hands of Gnosis, who are more capable than ever as they ease brutal aggression for the sake of impactful statements. We must first address the face value of inviting guest vocal spots from Wampyrion (Funeral Storm) and Necroabyssious himself, pillars and faces for the underground soldiers of this style of black metal who to some might appear as additional authentication or ‘seal of approval’ for these Floridians making what most will describe as Greek black metal. I’d argue they’ve paid homage with a well-thought out approach to authentification (there is a difference) via countless memorable choices made rather than plainly emulating the old ways. It is a balance of suggestion of forms and rather direct references that makes ‘Omens From the Dead Realm’ an entertaining listen and it makes sense to cite the vocals as a big part of this. The spoken word (into a satisfying growl) at the end of opener “Conjuration of the Nemesis” (see also: “Omens From the Dead Realm”) and the pitiful chorales of “Typhlotic Visions” are directly indicative of the ambitious and nearly progressive heavy metal songwriting we find in classic Hellenic black metal works. “Typhlotic Visions” is an obviate stand out here for the centripetal force of its stormy main guitar riffs and the handful of ‘epic’ ventures away from that key movement, at this point you know you are getting into something unreal that sounds ancient, attempting classic extreme metal sound that is far too wise to sound so old. The most important question to ask yourself here is quite obvious, then: Is there any value in hearing a ‘modern’ black/death metal band emulate the conditions of unassuming musicians in Athens back in 1994? Well, my response is “Yes, a thousand times over” but your results will vary.

Though it is a “quiet” record and rendered that way for the desired effect, cranking ‘Omens From the Dead Realm’ does wonders for its presence. What sounded like old and stilted drum machine fire is actually a very precise imprecision from the drummer and these details are, again, a big draw for my own taste. Carefully chosen analogue emulation or specifically balanced sound design to make sure the desired effect lands but what is here for folks who don’t give a shit about that? A solid sample of all of the best things that Greek black metal and its influence have done since the 90’s, especially in the last decade or so. The extended influence from Varathron cannot be understated here, though the reach of the early works is key here there is some touch of their newer rhythms in songs like “Apzu, Sea of Death” where we get the death/doom-tinged sound that Gnosis had in droves back in 2014 but now up to the level of Caedes Cruenta and such in terms of charismatic heavy metal guitar work leading the charge. The band then takes this a step further with “The Eleventh Step, The Gate Unknown” with Necroabyssious‘ eternal vocals stealing the show here, he is a true rarity among extreme metal vocalists where his work only gets more inventive and full of signature personality as the years go by and the words here come to life, even still it is one of the best songs on the album for the sake of its ‘Walpurgisnacht’-esque riffing, a headspace which I feel Gnosis have inarguably nailed here even if, again, I would have to include Thou Art Lord as an equally important reference.

So, although I could do the album more justice by highlighting certain successes within guitar arrangements and larger structures of extreme metal songcraft, the point is made well enough. Fans of this niche should reserve a place near the top of their Best of the Year lists and eternally bookmark Gnosis as having found their most unholy fire by deliberately incanting the style of ancient black metal which clearly inspires them most. Even when I drain myself of inordinate fandom and enthusiasm for this most resonant craft I don’t intend to hand out a participation medal, ‘Omens From the Dead Realm’ is surely more interesting for its authentic qualities but the fact is that these are excellent, inventive songs with big riffs and plenty of strong detail sure to catch the rightful ears of the esoteric and deranged. Just make sure you crank it up. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (85/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
Info:
ARTIST:GNOSIS
TITLE:Omens From the Dead Realm
TYPE:LP
LABEL(S):Godz ov War Productions,
Nuclear War Now! Productions
RELEASE DATE:June 14th, 2021 [CD], GoW Prod.
August 1st, 2021 [LP] NWN!
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Black Metal,
Black/Death Metal

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