Onirik – The Fire Cult Beyond Eternity Review

How often do you pick up an album, listen to it, love it, and then forget about it as you try to keep up with the next week, month, or year’s releases? When I was only a listener, this wasn’t a common occurrence for me. Like many of you, money is tight. You buy sparingly. And only after much research and contemplation. Rarely are albums bought on a whim. And, even rarer: a pre-order (unless it’s King Diamond). As a reviewer, with access to all the great (3-7%), mediocre (20-80%), and horrendous (90%) releases each year, I, like all reviewers, “Only listen to what I’m reviewing.” The consequence—besides utter deprivation of happiness and the forgone love of putting on your favorite albums without judgment—is that you spend time with an album, make it a top or bottom annual pick, and move onto the next promo in your inbox. Submit. Conform. Consume. Obey.

As a know-it-all “veteran” reviewer, there’s plenty o’ opportunities to revisit a band once reviewed. As well as revisiting that once-reviewed release. For example, Portugal’s Onirik. In 2015, I had the opportunity to review Casket Dream Veneration; an album I had much love for. But something happened. As I revisit it again, I find myself in love with it even more. It’s a unique experience—spinning an album loved and forgotten, only to cherish it more than ever. As one would expect, this had me excited for follow-up The Fire Cult Beyond Eternity. Not only does G. Rex remain the mastermind behind Onirik but he invited Dirge Rep (drums; The Konsortium, ex-Orcustus, ex-Emperor, ex-Gehenna, and the list goes on forever) and Semjaza (mixing, mastering, and ambient vox; Thy Darkened Shade) to contribute. This is a dream team of underground black metal proportions! Will they reinvent the Casket or lay the thing to rest?

That’s a complicated question… For one, Rex is incapable of rehashing himself from one release to the next. We know this from Onirik‘s existing discography. Yet, there’s Casket in the Fire. Take the opener, “Cult Beyond Eternity,” for example. Casket used ambient chants and choirs to give atmosphere to the building tensions of “Invocation and Defiance” and “Versos de um Ritual.” The opener of Fire uses these elements to the same effect; providing depth and melody to the chaotic, old-school sound—this last part feels like a return to the vicious character of 2009’s After Centuries of Silence.

But the back-to-back “Assigned to the Inexorable Flames” and “Melodies of Reflection and Praise” take it to a whole new level. Coming in at nine and seven-and-a-half minutes, respectively, these two tracks are dense. The former is like nothing Rex has ever written before. He’s created both an Onirik classic, as well as a dark, dingy, Satyricon-like world that personifies the very essence of what The Fire Cult Beyond Eternity is all about. And the follow-up isn’t far behind. Using more melodies to build steam for its uphill climb, “Melodies of Reflection and Praise” is the best mountain climber on the album.

Yet, what makes these tracks even more unique to Fire is Rex’s newfound love for the bass guitar. And I’m not talking about the occasional bass burst or upfront lead. No. As any album should be, the bass is the true backbone of Fire. The drums, the guitars, and the vocals are the whipping winds and swirling destruction to the bass’ eye of the storm. Even with the raw sound of Fire, the bass takes hold of driving guitar licks, ambient vocals, depressing melodies (like those in “Granted the Vision, Molded into Stone”), and blackened blitzkriegs (such as in the closer, “Apathy of Might”) to make them all that more memorable and powerful.

If you can’t tell, I’m enamored with Rex’s bass performance. As you will be. Even with the bombastic ambiance and meloblack atmospheres, Fire is very much a raw slab of black metal. To have bass arrangements this good, as well as production to hear them, has me in awe. Not to downplay the guitars. The Dissection-esque leads and solos at the end of “Assigned to the Inexorable Flames” are alone worth the price of the album. While a song like “Trapped in Flesh, Blood and Dirt” is not at the same caliber as “Assigned…,” Fire is a special black metal record and one of Onirik‘s finest. And, goddamn, that bass…

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 256 kb/s mp3
Label: I, Voidhanger Records | Bandcamp1
Websites: onirik.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/onirik2
Releases Worldwide: September 25th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Go here for current Onirik tracks.
  2. Go here for the old stuff.
« »