Everyone has a unique reviewing method when it comes to writing about an album. Sometimes, the words come to me almost immediately, whether in praise or in condemnation. Other times, finding the right words or comparisons takes a while. In other words, I went back-and-forth with where to go with this review of The Apostate of Light, the debut album by Euro-American black metal collective, Oculus. I couldn’t find the right words to convey my feelings about this six-song, fifty-four-minute album. So, I did what I normally do on the weekends when I’m grasping at straws about what to write for a review: I sat in front of my PS4 and started playing games. It was right then and there that what I wanted to say revealed itself to me. Basically, The Apostate of Light is the musical equivalent to the game Destiny.
For those who don’t game, Destiny is a first-person shooter/role-playing hybrid where you play as a character who’s resurrected by a Peter Dinklage-voiced robot companion, and you more-or-less go around shooting things while trying to put together what happened to you. Just as the game starts off beautifully, so does The Apostate of Light. “The Sour Waters of Life” opens the album up on an equally strong foot, featuring some heavy drumming by Ormenos, and solid Deathspell Omega-like riffing by Nero and Kozeljnik, with the latter moaning over everything. Not the most original of sounds, but the atmosphere suffocates just enough to create an intriguing aura. Just like the game, The Apostate started off strongly, leaving me chomping at the bit to dig deeper and discover what the album has in store for me.
But here’s where the comparison rears its ugly head. Destiny, while beautiful to look at, became monotonous to play, with little-to-no deviation from shooting and flying (and crashing) your space bike. In comparison, The Apostate fell into the same trap of monotony and lack of variety. The other five songs offer no deviation from each other. The riffs blend together. The drumming follows similar patterns with nothing catching the ear. And just as I tired of listening to Dinklage after a few hours, I became incredibly bored with Kozeljnik’s one-note moaning by the time the second song, “Salt of the Healer,” reached its halfway point. Worse yet, the shortest song on here, “A Visage of Dark Remembrance,” clocks in at just under seven minutes, and even that feels three-four minutes too long.
The Apostate comes with stock black metal mixing options. Kozeljnik’s voice maintains an up-front, cavernous presence, almost effectively drowning out the paper-y drums and distorted cymbals. The guitars possess heft but had I not read that Ormenos also handled bass duties, I would have assumed there wasn’t any as it’s smothered beyond life. Oddly enough, for something so dynamic, it’s still sounds muffled and loud. Nothing could resuscitate repetitive songwriting, though. I admire ambitiousness in music, but when you struggle to write a song that’s six-seven minutes long, why shoot for longer? “The Sour Waters of Life” notwithstanding, The Apostate was an absolute chore to get through after the first playthrough, and the other five I gave it didn’t engage me any more than the first time.
But as “The Sour Waters of Life” reveal, there’s something there. The ferocity, rage, and swirling chaos provided a promising hook that hints that more can be developed. However, the songs need tightening, the hooks elsewhere should be made stronger, and the atmosphere darker and murkier. As it stands, I’m putting this on the shelves for something more engaging.