Written By: Nameless N00b_04
The year 2018 ended on a sour note for me. With holiday blues being extra hard for me, I really craved dark music. Thus, my mind and headphones have been full of the likes of Anaal Nathrakh, Gaerea, and Sulphur Aeon for much of the past couple weeks. It’s into this headspace that my next assignment was given to me, and I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to be objective about it owing to where my mind has been.1 Reign of the Odious is the debut album from Musmahhu, a one-man metal project helmed by a man known only as Swartadauþuz. Reign of the Odious integrated itself perfectly into my mood playlist, however, and made for a chaotic emotional outlet.
The core sound of Reign of the Odious is made of two distinct parts that are present in every track: a deep, cavernous low end built by heavy death metal riffs and thunderous drums, and another melodious guitar that weaves through the onslaught like a honeybee through a hurricane. The opening track “Apocalyptic Brigade of Forbidden Realms” sets up this template, crashing down upon the listener in a cacophony of noise. The riff in “Apocalyptic Brigade” is monolithic, further amplified by the thunderous crack of the drums that sound massive. This riff provides a dark, pulsating core to the track, equal parts neck-snapping and atmospheric. At several points throughout, there are splashes of light woven among the darkness as a melodious guitar breaks through. Sometimes it’s almost indistinct from thunderous atmosphere. Other times, the melody soars above it. These two elements weave together to create a dynamic sound that ebbs and flows like a tide; vast and crushing in its totality, but hiding beauty below the surface.
The album’s true strength comes from how subsequent tracks play with the elements established at the beginning. Some tracks lean more heavily on the heavy parts, like “Musmahhu, Rise” and “Slaughter of the Seraphim.” Both tracks center around dark, heavy riffs that imprint themselves into eardrums with their sheer heaviness alone, carried along by intricate drumming that sounds like it was recorded in a vast cavern at the base of a mountain. Others bring the melody more to the forefront, like “Spectral Congregation of Anguish” and closer “Thirsting for Life’s Terminus.” “Thirsting” in particular brings some death/doom atmosphere in for the album’s finale, ending on a somber, contemplative note.
Reign of the Odious offers up more and more to listeners with repeated listens. Little touches missed during early spins revealed themselves over time, like treasures left by a receding tide. A somber piano plinks away during a section of “Musmahhu, Rise,” almost indiscernible from the blackened chaos. An entire line of vocals buried under heavy fuzz in “Slaughter of the Seraphim” is indistinct from the guitar unless the album is experienced through good headphones. All these little touches come courtesy of Swartadauþuz, who is responsible for everything on the album as far as I can tell. The promotional material labels him as a veteran of the black metal scene, and even though this is my first exposure to his work, I’m inclined to agree. While loud and chaotic, the production job richly layered with an excellent balance of elements in the mix. This makes the album spellbinding depth to the album.
Despite my lowly Noob status, I have no reservations about naming Reign of the Odious as one of the first fantastic albums of 2019. Even if I wasn’t in the dark place I am right now, Reign would easily worm its way into my head and heart with its complex layers of light and darkness. Play this one through headphones in a dark room and let it wash over you as we start this new year and prepare for whatever it holds for us.
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Website: TOO KVLT FOR WEBSITES
Releases Worldwide: January 18th, 2019