Whether or not it was the intention, metal has always been one of the more shocking and subversive genres of music in the eyes of society. Violent, perverse, blasphemous.. pretty much every colorful adjective in the book has been used to describe metal at some point. While there is plenty of metal that doesn’t fit this description whatsoever, one look at the cover of blackened death metalers Oculum Dei’s latest release, “Dreams of Desire and Torment,” is enough to see that these guys fully embrace the darker side of metal and all of society’s preconceived notions of it.
The songs themselves are no different, as exemplified perfectly in the opening track, “Involuntary Pandemic,” a barrage of blast-beats, shrieking vocals, and relentless tremolo-picked riffs. Anti-religious sentiment in particular is rife throughout the tune, a trend carried throughout the album. Surprisingly, the follow-up track, “Ghost in the Corridors,” starts things on a much more mellow yet still ominous note, with atmospheric clean guitars laying down the song’s foundation before alternating between segments of plodding doom and speed-infused schizophrenic insanity. Track 4, “Kingdom of Hell,” delves even further into the blasphemous, starting off with Gregorian chants before a moody bass-line kicks things off properly. This is eight minutes of blackened death metal at its finest.
The following title-track is probably my favorite track though, starting off with a creative mix of clean guitars layered beneath pounding drum work and a simple but effective guitar solo before the vocals come in, noticeably more guttural and deeper than the other songs. Of course the shrieks and tremolo-picking return, but when compared to the preceding tracks, the transitions are much smoother, effectively showcasing the song-writing capabilities of the band. The next two tracks are more of what you’d expect, but the closing track, “A Mist of Heaven Inside Hell,” is a truly theatrical show-stopper. Opening with vocals and piano work that wouldn’t sound out of place in an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical (thanks in part to an incredible unnamed female vocalist), before blasting into a raucous passage that gives way to harmonies between the female and unclean vocals, a finger-picked acoustic passage, pipe organs… man, this track needs to be heard to be believed! It’s such a damn fine way to close out the record.
Even if you’re not the biggest fan of blackened death metal, some of these songs are bound to impress you with their sheer variety, creativity, and theatrics. Metal needs more bands like Oculum Dei, who proudly carry the torch of their musical forefathers while also taking risks with their sound, yielding incredibly entertaining and fresh-sounding results. Make sure to give “Dreams of Desire and Torment” a listen at https://oculumdei.bandcamp.com/
Overall Sound – 8 out of 10 (blackened death metal with plenty of variety and experimentation)
Vocal Style – 7 out of 10 (exactly what you’d expect from a band of this ilk, though sometimes the vocals get lost in the mix)
Overall Song Composition – 10 out of 10 (these guys absolutely nail the fine line of staying true to the core tenants of their chosen genre while pushing the boundaries of what they can do with their sound)
Originality – 9 out of 10 (see above)