Think of an album as a multi-course meal; many of them give bite-sized but satisfying nutrient-packed portions that not only leave you satisfied, but definitely give you a craving for more. However, a scant few offer just meager tastes of what’s to come, oftentimes leaving the listener malnourished and starving, begging for just another bite. Finally, some bands give you monstrous servings, packed with calories, nutrients, and sometimes things you don’t want to ingest under any circumstances whatsoever, stuffing you full as you’re screaming, “No, please stop… I can’t eat anymore… I’m gonna explode…” and then they keep feeding you well past the point of explosion. Spanish doom/death export Onirophagus crafted just that kind of monstrosity with their newest four-song, 58-minute epic, Endarkenment (Illumination Through Putrefaction).
The good news is it isn’t all bad. Parts of each song contain somber melodies provided by their three guitarists, often recalling the mopier, more reflective moments of Mournful Congregation and My Dying Bride‘s1 highly influential brand of kings-booking, swans-turned-loosing dreariness. About two minutes into opener “Dysthanasia,” the trio of guitarists build a beautifully aching yet soaring passage that showcase just what Onirophagus is capable of if they could just trim the fat.
But my god, is there some fat on this album. At the beginning of “Dysthanasia,” there’s a slight tempo variance between the guitars and the drums, and it sounds like nobody let poor Uretra know about it, as his drumming sounds a bit off from everyone else’s sludge pace. Also, transitions within songs don’t move as smoothly as they should, often feeling like a Frankenstein’s pet project gone horribly awry. There’s a horribly out of place and completely unnecessary guitar solo near the end of “Book of the Half Men” that throws the song for a loop, and not in a “wow, that’s so cool” manner, either. “Dark River,” the album’s shortest track at a hair under 11 minutes, opens with a fairly wonky melody that also pulls down the song considerably.
But the biggest problem with Endarkenment, besides the songwriting, is the band’s need to incorporate fake-out endings in each song. When the band goes into a blast section near the end of “Dysthanasia” (complete with the prerequisite double-bass-and-cymbal flourish) about eight minutes into the song, I sighed in relief… until I looked at the song’s run time and realized there was another five minutes left. Those five minutes mostly didn’t match the level of songwriting the previous eight managed either. Don’t even get me started on the closing title track that had the biggest fake-out at eight minutes, with an additional fourteen minutes left, and believe me when I say those fourteen minutes weren’t enthralling at all. Bands, a word of advice: don’t do this. It’s better to cut your songs into smaller individual tracks than it is to have these big, long-winded songs with pieces that don’t flow with each other. It’s better to have an album with a few standouts and a bunch of filler than it is to have four incredibly long songs with only a few good passages in them. Nobody eats just parts of a meal, so why should songs be like that?
Onirophagus are ambitious, no questions there. But such ambition should be balanced with careful writing, tighter musicianship, and especially some massive self-editing, and that’s where Endarkenment trips and breaks its ankle. While the promise is there, the execution leaves a lot to be desired, and that’s a key piece of the puzzle. Mirror Reaper and Crimson, this ain’t.