It’s a big deal when a band lists major influences, like Ævangelist, Dodecahedron, and Blut Aus Nord, in their biography. Sometimes it’s an innocent list, meant to feed the reader with keywords. Other times, it’s misleading. In Ophe‘s case, the list ain’t that far off, as the band takes their forefather’s black/avant-garde style and French’s the fuck out of it. It’s Dodecahedron‘s low-end, mixed with the dark, distant blackness of Ævangelist and layers of Område and Spektr. When you look deeper into Ophe, this isn’t a surprise. Considering that this one-man band consists of Område‘s own Bargnatt XIX. But this ain’t no Område. As is abundantly clear by Bargnatt XIX’s far-off shrieks, clean-vocal smatterings, as well as his saxophone and acoustic guitar flavorings on Litteras Ad Tristia Maestrum Solitude. But, to compare one’s self to the role models of modern extreme black/avant-garde metal is quite the feat. The question is: how does Ophe, and their/his debut record, stack up against the ringbearers?
Short answer: not as well as one would hope. And this is coming from someone that adores Bargnatt XIX’s full-time outfit, Område. That said, Litteras Ad Tristia Maestrum Solitude does have its moments. I only wish there were more of them. But, with only five tracks and a thirty-five-minute runtime, there isn’t much room to push boundaries or reinvent the wheel. There do exist some massive atmospheres and conspiring rasps and clean vocals, as well as some clever inclusions of organ and woodwind. Yet, the album lacks a foundation to tie it all together. And its short runtime makes it difficult to become invested.
Opener “Somnum Sempiternum” and “XVIIII” use everything from Thorns-esque guitar chugs to Ævangelist-meets-Dodecahedron atmospheres. Between the two, you get a flavor of everything Bargnatt XIX seeks from the record. Though more complete—as far as building passages and its bass/drum-led segments—”Somnum Sempiternum” sees less of the accessible guitar leads/solos of “XVIIII.” Not that “XVIIII” is trvly “accessible,” but it does have the riffs and mood that many black metallers flock to. It also has plenty of the album’s chalkboard-scratching saxophone cameos amongst its near-six-minute length. It’s the kind of skin-crawling saxophone work that mixes modern-day Dødheimsgard with Sigh. Something that will undoubtedly suck a listener in or drive them away, depending on one’s taste.
“Missive Amphibologique D’Une Adynamie A La Solitude” takes everything from the previous two tracks and shoves it into a single, ten-and-a-half-minute number. Though the saxy segments of the record are subtle, it’s the circus-y interludes and overlaying sax work that make this one stand out. Again, the incorporation of these elements can be good or bad, depending on the listener. And, although the song is a good three minutes longer than it should be, “Missive Amphibologique D’Une Adynamie A La Solitude” has enough going on to make it worth a repeat listen. Just as intriguing, but in a more simplistic way, is closer “Cadent.” Though it’s nothing more than a simple, repetitive, acoustic guitar lick, it does a fine job of trying to pull the album together and synching it off.
Though Litteras Ad Tristia Maestrum Solitude has a digestible length, it lacks some of the fullness of records from Dodecahedron and Blut Aus Nord. It also doesn’t help that “Missive Amphibologique D’Une Adynamie A La Solitude” is longer than its name, “Cadent” is far too repetitive, and the noisy “Decem Vicibus” does nothing at all for the record. The plus side here is potential exists in numbers like “Somnum Sempiternum,” “XVIIII,” and “Missive Amphibologique D’Une Adynamie A La Solitude.” Not to mention that the dynamics of the record are full, rich, and fucking outstanding. Unfortunately, I think I’ll be sticking to Bargnatt XIX’s other black metal outfit.
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: My Kingdom Music
Releases Worldwide: February 16th, 2018