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Ophis : Withered Shades

I guess it was only a matter of time before the revival of Old School Death Metal hits the gloomy shores of Doom Death. With bands like Dead Congregation or Kaamos setting “new” standards for Death Metal and showing their unconditional love to effigies of the 90s like Incantation or Immolation, now Doom Metal bands seem to remember the glory of their elders, namely Winter, Sorrow or early Peaceville Three.

Ophis, a German Doom Death band among a multitude of stoner and Traditional Doom acts in their country, are now releasing their sophomore album titled Withered Shades. I must confess I hadn't had the opportunity to listen to their debut Stream Of Misery but from what I could read on the net, their second offering is a vast improvement and decidedly a rather good record in the genre.

I actually must admit that, at first, I was not so impressed with Withered Shades. It is indeed a Doom Death record in the tradition of the early sound of Peaceville Records but I did find it not so memorable when I received it. It took a few more listens to actually start to enjoy this but the big quality of “growers” is that the more you play them the more you feel drawn to them. Withered Shades is a grower and now I find myself playing it over and over everyday because new aspects, new subtleties are found in each new play.

I’ve read an interview of Ophis’ frontman Philipp Kruppa and he would somehow describe Ophis having various and varied influences like Evoken or Skepticism and that they finally had assimilated their past influences namely My Dying Bride, Asphyx or Katatonia. While I certainly can see a few resemblances between Ophis and early Evoken, the reference to Skepticism is rather uncalled for. I could even add that I still hear the My Dying Bride guitars they said they were done with. I would also mention that most likely Anathema’s Silent Enigma and Serenades must have had some role in shaping the sound of these German Doomsters.

Withered Shades offers five long and crushing tracks of very good Doom Death. The vocals/growls are rather raw and reminiscent of John Paradiso’s work on Evoken and Ahab's Daniel Broste. They’re for the most part unintelligible (that is especially for Death Metal vocals) and give a nice contrast with the music which benefits from a very nice and clear production where all the instruments play their equal part. There are also a few almost Black’ish vocals but they’re not too present and therefore not too annoying.

Musically, as I said earlier, I can still find many similarities with early Peaceville Three recordings. ‘Halo of Worms’ could be very much compared to Anathema’s ‘They Die’ with its haunting and repetitive riffing. ‘The Halls of Sorrow’ has a definite My Dying Bride feel to it, please read: the grimness of Doom Death mixed with the shadow of Black Sabbath hanging over their heads just like when they (almost) ripped off ‘War Pigs’ in the break in the middle of ‘Sear Me’. Which would make Ophis’ music of English obedience rather than the cruder side found in Winter or Sorrow over the pond. There are also some “faster" parts which I guess could remind you of Asphyx. I guess we just came full circle.

The references seem to never end but Ophis still retain their own sound. Obviously it’s very much anchored in Old School Doom Death the way it was played back in 1992 but it’s really a record that stands on its own and makes excellent use of past influences rather than try to copy them. If you're into most of the aforementioned bands, you definitely can’t go wrong with OphisWithered Shades. I could even add: a must buy.

Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. The Halls of Sorrow
2. Suffering is a Virtue
3. Earth Expired
4. Necrotic Reflection
5. Halo of Worms

Duration : Approx. 53 minutes

Visit the Ophis bandpage.

Reviewed on 01-09-2010 by Frédéric Cerfvol
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