Oskoreien – Illusions Review

Oskoreien // Illusions EP
Rating: 4.0/5.0 —Great! Looking forward to a full length.
Label: Unsigned (Name your price for it at Band Camp)
Websites: oskoreien.bandcamp.com | myspace.com/oskoreienband
Release Dates: Dec. 31st, 2009

Oskoreien is another one of those DIY projects that I was directed to which delighted me to check out. There was a time when you, as a metal guy, probably got friended by Oskoreien on MySpace, when the creator was in full-on promo mode. The tracks that I remembered hearing were very much in the Ensiferum / Wintersun kind of vein. Lots of sweep picking and sort of melodic death influences. So when I got my hands on the Illusions EP I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Turns out that Mr. Valena had released something I wasn’t expecting at all: basically post-black metal. Illusions opens with a short acoustic passage and then launches into the first 13 minute track, a piece called “Transcendence” in good form. The melodies are solid, but simplistic. The guitar work on here isn’t like Ensiferum or Wintersun at all, but instead much more black metal: trem-picked over blast beats and minimalistic, with very little ornamentation. This doesn’t mean, however, that there is no musical sophistication here—just the opposite, in many ways this material feels much more sophisticated than Velana’s earlier work (not to say that it was bad, mind you). The ability to take simple passages, simple harmonies and beautiful chord progressions and make them shine like he has shows a solid understanding of composition and just an all around good ear.

These tracks are quite atmospheric, as one could expect. They land firmly in the Ulver and Agalloch territory with reference to both the acoustic guitar style and composition styles. Jay’s voice is also very similar to Garm’s old singing voice in the early Arcturus, Ulver days like what one hears on Kveldssanger and La Masquerade Infernale. He has a very forceful, vibratoless kind of delivery that is equal parts beautiful and creepy. Sometimes it sounds a little bit too forced for my liking, but it fits the atmosphere perfectly. And let’s face it, he must be doing something right if I *want* to listen to 23 minutes of music split into only two tracks.

My biggest complaint about this is the production, but not in the way that one would expect. The guitars have a lot of reverb on them, which sort of pushes them back in the mix and with the drums so high in the mix, but also so obviously a drum machine, it feels a little jarring sometimes. These are quality samples, but they have that sort of modern “tinny drum” kind of sound that I think should probably be avoided. Other than that, this record shines. Both tracks are well-composed, well-performed and worth checking out. And, once again, it’s a “name your own price” kind of deal, so I strongly suggest you go and download the thing and donate to Oskoreien’s future.

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