Bones – Sombre Opulence Review

I have been in a weird space with death metal in 2022. While quality releases have trickled in at a reasonable rate, not much has really blown me away and shaken me to the core. In fact, I’ve spent ample periods revisiting the past, leaning on old favorites, while the latest dominating platter from reliable legends Immolation has remained in solid rotation. Yet as the last chunk of 2022 dawns upon us, optimism is high due to the often-fruitful later-year riches. Belgium’s Bones intend on bludgeoning their way into focus on their debut full-length, Sombre Opulence. Despite only now getting around to dropping an LP, Bones are hardly death metal newbies, having formed way back in 2011 and dropping shorter form releases before arriving at Sombre Opulence. Do these underground purveyors of ugly, claustrophobic old school death possess what it takes to make a rumble in the death metal scene and snap me out of my deathly rut?

Sombre Opulence is steeped in a thick, murky atmospheric blanket, creating a dank, grimy foundation to do Incantation proud. Bones possess a sound that intimidates and fascinates, using influences as reference points rather than sleeve patches. Playing a suffocating, caverncore style of death, peppered with doomier surges and occasional Swedeath flourishes, Bones largely avoid one-dimensional trappings and seem hellbent to crack ribcages and crush windpipes. Bones steer clear of modern death metal gloss, instead equipping their weapons of choice with beefy, organic tones and endearingly old school, yet clear sonic profile.

Throughout Sombre Opulence, Bones pull no punches. Yet amidst the toughened, brutally chaotic foundations, Bones craft compositions that boast an obvious attention to detail, featuring a focus on bludgeoning, unhinged and deftly dynamic offerings, where caterwauling solos dive in through dense, blast-beaten sections, diseased grooves erupt from the coagulated mass, and tempos shift from frantic high-speed assaults to sprightly pummels, and all manner of speeds and doomy crawls in-between. Impressive opener “Execration Rites” is a solid encapsulation of Bones songwriting strengths, as busy guitar work, belligerent percussion, and furnace-blasting bouts of chaos collide with a viciously executed closing groove, ignited with screeching solo work. “Twilight Divination” is another beastly early album showcase, its groovier leanings and playful riffing complimented by steadily escalating intensity and screeching axework.

Bones execute their battering ram assault in a relatively swift 43-minute barrage. However, there is baggage that holds the album back from being as lean, mean and nasty as it could be. The mysterious, brooding instrumental “Withering’ has cool moments, yet feels somewhat unnecessary amidst the more creative writing, such as the shifting tempos and band’s handy knack for exploring doomy, headbangable grooves and slithering melodies to break up the album’s chaotic urges. Vocally, the incomprehensible, throaty growls certainly contain a full-bellied, nasty edge, but can become monotonous and lack variation. Furthermore, Bones explore longer form arrangements, sandwiched between more traditionally compact numbers. “Deserts of Eternity” is an interesting and solidly gripping song. However, its seven-minute runtime runs too long with a mid-song lag sapping momentum. Feeding into the aforementioned instrumental and backed up by the viciously chaotic but somewhat forgettable “Primordial Idolatry” creates some mid-album issues, detracting from the album’s many other solid attributes, strong musicianship, and interesting writing. Similarly, the nearly nine minutes long “Great Altars of Ascension” comes loaded with attention-grabbing moments yet would have created greater impact if it had been shaved down by a minute or two.

Bones possess the tools and talents to deliver a satisfyingly brutal gut punch to the senses, and Sombre Opulence has the makings of a great album. Each time I give it a spin there is much to enjoy and absorb, such as, the touched upon dynamics, brutal delivery, and subtle intricacies sucking you in with intrigue. However, despite ample strong points and gnarly elements, the writing fails to stick as well as expected once the unrelenting barrage subsides. Sombre Opulence could use some trimming, and the mid-album lull stifles crucial momentum, despite being largely surrounded by solid to very good writing and snippets of genuinely compelling material. Flaws aside, Sombre Opulence is well worth investigating for intrigued death aficionados and I eagerly await where Bones head next, as there is potential for greatness lurking beneath their solid exterior.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
LabelInvictus Productions
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 9th, 2022

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