EMPTY – Omnia Amet Lorem (2022)REVIEW

Through a spell of mors natura impossible to detangle the infinite becomes irrational to consider, the finality of death will reign over all flesh. They who would thrive within melancholia and ensorcell the focus with which sorrow persists inevitably realize death worship may conjure profundity in revel of their curse yet the dissolve of the flesh lingers in threat. A morbid calm, a disturbingly vivid realism settles over Zaragoza, Spain-borne quartet Empty who have for the sixth time created bleakest black metal sophisticate which encourages solitude within ‘Omnia Amet Lorem‘, another dire and eyeless soul engaged with stinging resentment and existential dread wracking the brain. Never one to conjure distress for the sake of wallowing, instead they’d generate a state of mind which leaves one wandering toward the unknown fearlessly, embracing all that cannot be seen by those who run hurriedly toward the comforts of survival. Sitting with this sixth damning penitence assures the listener that pain, suffering, the sorrow of aging and physical decay can be harnessed for enlightenment yet the impending void remains an inescapable truth.

Empty formed in 1995 by way of musician Drizzt (Cryptic Wanderings, ex-Amnion) as one of the earliest black metal projects to form in Spain and remain consistent over the years, there were of course a few substantial bands (Blazemth, Ouija, Primigenium, et al.) who have returned over the years but we find this one holding fast and true since. Once a temporarily steady line-up had formed their journey toward conveying this persistent self-described “negative pessimistic” atmosphere and style unique to Empty did not take long as even the first promotional demo (‘Eternal Cycle of Decay‘, 2000) bears an internal feeling of despair a melancholia which is yet intelligent in its nascent purchase from classical music. If nothing else the main riffs from “In Your Grave” ensure that this band made a first impression which was honestly already becoming rare in the new millennium. By the time the band’s debut full-length (‘A Source of Hollow Essence‘, 2002) released guitarists Vanth and Orgall had been secured as compatriots for the path forward for the next several releases, characterizing the sound of the band with more vicious vocals and sophisticated dual-rhythm guitar arrangements that’d exceeded the already beauteous harmonies found on their first demo. Romanticism, morbidity, and an accomplished sense of composition mark the earlier works of the band and this sets so vital precedence for the beauteous darkness ‘Omnia Amet Lorem‘ embodies today.

Each record from the band beyond their beginnings would twist its depressive, brittle soul in notable ways eventually becoming somewhat chaotic. The chorale fused shrieking brutality of ‘The Last Breath of my Mortal Despair‘ (2005) with its impressive mid-album excessum built upon the debut’s reaching arrangements, the vastly underrated haunt of ‘The House of Funerary Hymns‘ (2009) with its well-emphasized basslines and mazelike intensity reprised their Varathron-esque reprieves sidled next to the ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas‘ driven riff abstraction that’d long been part of the two guitarist’s joint phrasing. This’d been around the time I’d first discovered the band, having them described to me as “gothic and progressive” by a friend didn’t necessarily having me jumping at ’em but the album art reminded me of “Them” and the music didn’t disappoint. A chaotic, restless and depressive sort of being, at this point Empty were a hidden gem of European black metal, one which’d avoided trends for the sake of developing their own idiosyncratic sound and I’d discovered them arguably at their most demented point of second wave declension, an erratic and suicidal cult full of black vigor.

Etica Profana Negativa‘ (2014) was their humble introduction via the bigger platform offered by Osmose Productions and here we’d get a fittingly esoteric black metal album. The signature available to Empty hadn’t been amorphous up ’til that point so much as a subtle combination of traits which were exclusively set for those who’d take the time to bite into the ruinous lyrics, enter a state of seeming endless mourning, and seek the tragedian sophisticate “emptiness” in earnest. That said the band had been most clear in their intent at that point as their self-actualization began to appear complete during the fifteen or so year trip to that new achievement. Where they would go from here next, especially concerning a few line-up changes, was likely a necessary bout of change brought on by a need for a shift in perspective.

I’d written about ‘Vacío‘ (2018) in passing the year it’d released and hadn’t gone into much detail beyond a few positive remarks appreciating some of the dissonant bent employed, their accomplished yet collapsing dramatism at prime resonance but still reading as cold underground black metal in spirit. The album marked a few changes, the first being a different narrative stroke in the band’s legacy wherein Drizzt presented the lyrics from a third person perspective while also performing most of, if not all, the vocals. Of course this might not change the dynamic of the music too drastically but those who value storytelling/characterization in lyric poetry and its performance will recognize that a change in point of view sometimes means rethinking the “voice” of the artist on paper and in practicum. For the longtime black metal fan the first person perspective is key for a certain directly channeled mindset, either in creation of character (see: Immortal) or embodying evil, death, and darkness within in a performative way. The third person allowed ‘Vacio‘ to haunt from a distance in vignettes. Empty had always operated at a highly literate station yet it’d been most obvious in direct examination of their fifth full-length, as such I’d gone into ‘Omnia Amet Lorem‘ knowing there’d be an intelligent, damning curse deeply set within its entrails.

The major reason I’ve been so enchanted by Empty‘s work up ’til and including ‘Omnia Amet Lorem‘ is well worth reiterating: Their work is non-literal in its influence, never wearing another’s skin but still generating their own version of the fire presented in the early 90’s as the second wave truly hit with its most passionate philosophy and counter-cultural inspiration. This never meant scuffed production values or naïve, uncaring performances but instead focused on creating a dark and depressive atmosphere to reveal the writhing black spiritus within. With this in mind we can view this sixth album as either a full-circle statement of fortitude or preferably another piece of a long in motion evolution of unfaltering intentions. What carries over beautifully from ‘Vacío‘ is a distinct feeling of doom, or, existential dread which rings throughout the full listen alongside a steadier dramatic pace which nullifies expectations of the chaotic, fiery side of the band on certain records in the past. The rhythm section is especially stoic in this regard, allowing the guitar and vocals to direct the kicking eerie Empty generates on standout piece “The Bleakness of Elderness” and opener “Inclination” to pool and clash as if boiling aether pitted in a crystalline tomb. The introductory moments of ‘Omnia Amet Lorem‘ are nothing short of grandiose in their inward echoing gloom.

By the fourth track on the album it becomes clear that this is a different ratio of clean guitar glowering to ripping riffs than ‘Vacío‘ and even ‘A Source of Hollow Essence‘ but each piece is fully there and transitioned in uninterrupted flow, suggesting a singular consciousness threshing between triumphal mania and restless gloom throughout “Hungry For Emptiness”. The lyrics for this piece are of course more impactful for their first person declarative value, an excellent capsule for the muse of Empty which accentuates the song’s delivery. This is particularly where I’d gone from sold on more listens with “The Bleakness of Elderness” and now enthralled by the spectacular gravitas found on the two pieces afterward, with “The Vision That Ruined a Man” being a maddeningly constant haunt, kicking and flinging itself downhill while featuring some of the chorales that’d stood out on ‘The Last Breath of My Mortal Despair‘. From that point we’re struck with depressive violence (“Decease of Internal Light”) and a chaotic final apex within the strident and inspired title track, which dares to reach nearby ~9 minutes in length with its many twists and turns.

The depressive pulse of the band still reigns and the rhythms enrich deeper still. I am void of gripes or complaints, transfixed by the album and the possibilities it’d unlocked for the future. Though a full listen of ‘Omnia Amet Lorem‘ manages to be notably different at face value when loosely compared to some of Empty‘s past works the precedence has been well-set for this current state, a transfixing and devastating blend of dread-bound atmosphere and cutting spiritual violence which is entertaining, thought-provoking and crafted in a such a way that its layers reveal beautifully within return listens. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (82/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
ARTIST:EMPTY
TITLE:Omnia Amet Lorem
LABEL(S):Drakkar Productions, [CD]
Negra Nit
[Vinyl]
A Fine Day to Die [CS]
RELEASE DATE:November 18th, 2022

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