You know that part in a lot of blazingly fast tech-death albums about four or five songs in? It’s when you get past the sheer speed, technicality, and insanity on display and get kinda bored? When you realize these artists, who are immensely talented, didn’t quite pay attention in music school during the songwriting lectures? These are the moments when you can basically predict the “shocking” musical twists because the band in question can only physically cram so many ideas into an album? It’s unfortunate but often an expectation with bands that have come in the wake of Necrophagist and Spawn Of Possession.
I’ll admit that I was ready for that moment in Desolate. Ophidian I play a style that I can only describe as a hyper-speed tech-death performing lost Protest The Hero covers. Everything about the first couple songs screams “MUST GO FAST! NAH, WILL GO FASTER!” until you realize that it’s not insane tempos or wild musical tailspins that are the jet fuel for the band’s ride through space. Instead, this Icelandic band emphasizes good old-fashioned songwriting and genuinely thoughtful musical construction. Sure, the gorgeous flamenco intro to “Captive Infinity” would be interesting enough on its own, but much like fellow forward-thinkers Allegaeon, the Spanish style is then woven into the fabric of the resulting melodic death metal sledgehammer. The flamenco ain’t just shiny, hat-wearing window dressing.
That word “melodic” is key here, as Ophidian really capitalize on crafting catchy leads, solos, and sweeps that are genuine earworms. Slow the guitar leads by 40 beats-per-minute (BPMs), and you can hear the same ingredients that make Beyond Creation and Archspire leaders of the modern tech death pack: symphonic framing and progressive riffs bludgeon the listener in a way that becomes soothing with the band’s unique take on melodicism. Each track plays with where you expect it to go and even allows for the occasional moments where things are slowed down to a totally reasonable 250 BPMs (lol). There are genuine death metal riffs aplenty here, moments where you can actually headbang along and not have your head fly off due to tension force. It’s magical stuff.
Ultimately, what’s most impressive about Ophidian and their latest sonic adventure is that expected moment of boredom never comes. Instead, Desolate is a record that arguably gets better over its runtime, revealing more wrinkles and flourishes for the band to show off. The fact that the album never actually feels like talented metalheads happy to simply to do just that – show off – is why Desolate is essential modern tech-death. This feels like a new standard for the style and a reminder of the power of tech-death when done to perfection.
Order the album at this location.