When you have a clear vision in mind it is important to have the best people around you to help you to achieve it to the best of your abilities. For Icelandic Technical Death Metal merchants Ophidian I, a band consisting of familiar faces within the Icelandic scene as members of bands such as Helfró, Beneath, Une Misère and Atrum, they chose Christian Donaldson (Despised Icon, The Agonist, Cryptopsy) to mix and master “Desolate“. In order to finalize the vision they chose Eliran Kantor (Testament, Soulfly, Havok) to paint the cover artwork, befitting of the soundscape they recorded with guitarist Daníel Máni Konráðsson in the production chair of Sundlaugin Studio.
That recording process must have been painstakingly meticulous following an extraordinary length of time spent in their rehearsal space working on both the mental and physical approach to their work because when the opening track “Diamonds” hits you, it is nothing short of mesmerizing. The riffs push the boundaries of dexterity with sublime technicality that is reminiscent of bands like Rings Of Saturn and leaves you questioning quite how they did that, with sweeps, chugs and furious intent. The string playing trio of Daníel Máni Konráðsson, Simon Thorolfsson and Þórður Hermannsson need to ensure they do their stretches before playing, their fretboard smoking work risking personal injury regularly. The leads are frantic and frenetic throughout as the band switch effortlessly between melodic beauty and skull crushing heaviness; there are even some moments that sound almost video game like in “Spiral To Oblivion” and “Storm Aglow“. Fortunately in John Olgeirsson they have a vocalist who provides a striking level of continuity as the roars fire and brimstone through these tracks, his unclean vocals as harsh as the painting of the bleak world that adorns the cover of the record. He is at his most ferocious during “Unfurling The Crescent Moon” which has a crushing mid section of Death Metal that is strangely reminiscent of Colin Jeffs era Aversions Crown although “Dominion Eyes” sees him reaching and touching the abyss of pre-Slam. Hailing from the home of apocalyptic weather, eruptions and storms the bands music acts as a mirror for that by constantly changing, evolving, twisting and turning from the darkness into the light and playing off melody with crunch as each moment hits like a wave from a stormy sea crashing upon the shore in the dark of night.
There a couple of moments where Ophidian I might have the same fickle fingers that pointed at DragonForce and suggested they were speeding their guitar work up in the studio and one of those is on “Sequential Descent” where mid track the guitar mimics synths with stunning effect. Hopefully that doesn’t happen because the naysayers are usually full of jealousy and what Ophidian I have created is nothing short of stunning. Elsewhere “Captive Infinity” has an acoustic introduction piece that is simply joyous to usher in one of the heaviest tracks on the record and not only makes a claim to the Technical Death Metal crown, but defiantly plants the bands flag in the throne room. Having waxed lyrical about the guitar work here, drummer Ragnar Sverrisson is highly deserving of a mention as he gives former Chimiara and Dying Foetus sticksman Kevin Talley a run for his money here. Jackhammer footwork is coupled with the precision of a laser guided tactical missile as he gets a full work out to underpin the frantic and frenetic guitars and there is no doubt that by the end of any performance, he had done his cardio work for the month. Each of these tracks is immersive, rammed full of memorable melodies and special moments that come out of the woodwork over multiple listens and simply blows the mind in terms of technical playing. All that is really left is for the band to be heard upon the bigger stages; hopefully that is something that happens via the dominant roster at Season Of Mist because it certainly deserves to be [9/10]
2. Spiral To Oblivion
3. Storm Aglow
4. Unfurling The Crescent Moon
5. Sequential Descent
6. Captive Infinity
7. Enslaved In A Desolate Swarm
8. Dominion Eyes (ft. Julian Parry)
10. Wither On The Vine
“Desolate” by Ophidian I is out 16th July via Season Of Mist and available for pre-order over at bandcamp.