As far as transient astronomical events go, the eclipse is relatively unbrutal. Consider that a supernova (or indeed its big brother, a hypernova) involves a solar explosion with interplanetary repercussions, while a tidal disruption event occurs when a star is pulled towards a supermassive black hole which triggers a dispersion of light literally called spaghettification. An eclipse, by comparison, is simply the temporary obfuscation of a star, planet, or moon. And yet it appears that metalheads love a good eclipse: simply look to Amorphis, Emperor, or this ridiculous list of bands that take it as their name. Thus enters a new troupe of aficionados; Ottawa’s Ominous Eclipse and their sophomore release entitled Sinister. Does it invoke the brvtality of a devastated solar system?
Sinister operates around a core of speedy, technical death metal. This tech style is tinged with streaks of melodicism and thrashy grooves such that sheer technical ability at their respective instruments is not the sole focus, as is often the case in the sub-genre. The vocals are split between slam-inflected lower pitches and higher-pitched growls so are somewhat varied. The band evoked to me is Shadow of Intent although Ominous Eclipse features far less of the faux-symphonics and core-style breakdowns. These sounds could seemingly blend through compelling songwriting as the different ingredients in the pot have similar influences and therefore the recipe could work on paper.
But how is the execution? A delicious stew or a muddled soup? The answer is somewhere in the middle but decidedly closer to the latter. The riffcraft is not bad; Ominous Eclipse can neither be said to be poor instrumentalists nor incapable of putting out something which will move your head. But I would also argue that they are not good. Metal, as a genre, prioritizes The Riff. It is therefore critical, particularly in death metal, that your riffs are of high quality. Here, they are not bad. They’re not bad to the extent that I don’t hate the music while it spins but I also don’t particularly remember many passages and don’t feel compelled to return.
I’m also not a fan of the vocals. Both the higher and lower pitches which I have already referenced lack personality and ultimately merge into the backing layers which sound more or less the same throughout. There isn’t really rhythm or cadence to draw the listener, and the lyrics are indistinguishable from moment to moment, barring a couple of choruses. The only truly enjoyable vocal part is the very limited use of cleaner, sneered vocals in “Lost at Sea,” which is perhaps unsurprisingly one of the most melodic tracks. I’m not normally one to focus too much on the vocals; that I have done so here indicates that they are a detractor.
It’s all very well analyzing the minutiae of an album, combing for those few passages and precious seconds where I’m not disengaged. Such tracks with stronger parts include “Lost at Sea,” “The Horde,” and “Eye of the Raven.” But outside of these, my listening experience became a prospecting exercise for quality and not an unencumbered listen in itself, which marks a problem. Yes, some riffs are decent. But am I left with a positive overall sensation? Am I persuaded that greater perseverance would yield more? Should you buy Sinister? The answer to these questions is no.