Review: Enfold Darkness – Adversary Omnipotent
Endfold Darkness had a pretty solid debut with Our Cursed Rapture. It was one of those rare blackened melodeath albums where the “blackened” part didn’t just feel like a gimmick. It didn’t just feel like In Flames Lite with mid-tempo blasts and tremolo chords haphazardly stapled together; its melodies were genuinely dark and melancholy, its tone decidedly icy. Strong songwriting and technical but tasteful playing made it a pretty catch-all death metal album in terms of appeal; it’s just all around a good album.
Adversary Omnipotent says, “Hey, you remember Our Cursed Rapture? Yeah, that album fucking sucks.”
Seriously, everything about Adversary is a huge step up from Rapture. Enfold Darkness put a lot of work (eight years of it) into this album, and the effort shows. It’s both more complex and more focused, the production has received a substantial upgrade, and its scope is much more ambitious. Their debut feels small, almost amateurish in comparison.
Adversary Omnipotent’s story is big and cheesy, not unlike something you’d hear from a Hyperborean-styled heavy metal band such as Eternal Champion. I won’t really go into detail, but it’s important to know because it plays into the music itself. This is a long album- nearly 70 minutes- but as the music follows the story, it’s very easy to break up into smaller chunks, each of which are easily digestible on their own. I’m not sure if my own division represents exactly what the band had in mind, but as I see it, the first four tracks make up part one, songs five to nine comprise part two, and ten to thirteen are part three.
Part one opens with some spooky ambiance that explodes into “Lairs of the Ascended Masters,” a monstrous, scorching banger of a track. A chorus of screams gives way to a blast-and-tremolo riff that leads up to a spidery arpeggiated section. The middle of the song takes a blackened turn with big, nasty chords and blastbeats before you’re treated to a fantastic solo. It’s a strong start that sets a precedent for the rest of the album; there’s a ton of variety in each piece without a note of filler. The fact that they can keep this much material tied together with similar musical themes without wearing it out is a wonder in and of itself, but they do it.
As a quick aside guitar nerd aside, I’d like to mention how strong the solos are on Adversary. They rarely fall back onto shredding through scales to get from point A to point B; they’re almost entirely composed of actual, real melodies. I know that might seem like an odd thing to render praise for, but impressive as most tech death guitarists are, a lot of their soloing lacks creativity. That is certainly not the case here; besides being well-written, they’re quite dynamic, unique as each of the songs themselves. The guitarists use a multitude of tones and effects, playing on different pickups and adjusting tone where needed. It might seem small, but it’s a huge breath of fresh air.
Anyway, part two is where things really pick up. “Invocation of Na’ak Ba’ran” is a creepy quarter-time crawl that truly evokes images of a cult calling upon their dark god in an arcane ritual. It smoothly transitions into “Banishment,” kicking up the tempo and driving forward on counterpoint melodies and esoteric harmonies. A short, proggy instrumental break sets up my favorite two songs: “The Adversary, Omnipotent” and “Terror of a Perilous Quest.” These two songs represent the extremes of the band’s genre leanings, the former being the most singularly black metal song on the album and the latter being pure tech death. While they don’t demonstrate the same skillful blend of styles as the rest of the album, they show that the band has mastered them individually as well.
Unfortunately, no album is perfect, and the final stretch of the album represents my sole issue with the work as a whole. “The Test of Wisdom” is where I feel the pacing starts to falter. I don’t know if it’s simply because it directly follows the immaculate fluidity of the second act or if it’s because of the drop in tempo that comes halfway through, but it very much feels like the high of “Perilous Quest” fades on this song. Don’t get me wrong- it’s still an excellent song, and the entirety of the third act feels perfectly paced on its own- but on a full listen, it slows the momentum. Fortunately, it’s built back up by the time it reaches the end, and the record closes on a high note with the all-encompassing “Vanish into Damnation.”
If I somehow haven’t made it clear yet, I love the shit out of this album. For reference, I’ve had it for just shy of a month as of this writing, and I’ve already spun it more than anything else to come out this year. If you don’t have the patience for it, just look at it as a collection of three EP’s and jam it in chunks. However you have to do it, listen to this album. Adversary Omnipotent is instantly enjoyable and endlessly repeatable, and for that I give it:
4.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Adversary Omnipotent is out this Friday, July 14th, via The Artisan Era, and you can pick it up at their Bandcamp or webstore. Be sure to follow the band on Facebook; swing by and let them know the Toilet is watching. Always watching.