Ill Omen – Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence

ILL OMEN - Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence - Cover

Nuclear War Now! Productions

Release: 15 December 2014

8/10 – Katie H-Halinski

Australia: land of AC/DC, kangaroos, and Ill Omen – a one-man musical project by an artist called IV. Now, one-man/one-woman projects aren’t exactly unheard of in extreme metal, particularly once we start edging into black metal territory. But they’re also a bit of a mixed bag. Some feel like pure and whole expressions of an individual’s musical perspective and worldviews. Some feel like they’re expressions of someone who’s just difficult to work with, and the music comes across as one-sided and vague.

This, thankfully, is one of the former. ‘Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence’ is a powerful, uncompromising album that weaves its sinister charms around the listener and refuses to let them go. It would be near-impossible to talk about it on a track-by-track basis even if I wanted to, as ‘Enthroning…’ demands to be listened to more as a symphony. Built from eleven tracks, each entitled Abhorrence, certain threads are kept running throughout: the midtempo pace being most notable, helping the album cohere, but upon further listens, Abhorrences reincarnate themes and motifs from previous ones, causing the album to echo itself, becoming its own dark doppelganger. IV’s vocals are a potent snarl, occasionally masked by everything that surrounds them, but the guttural grate of his style is enough to act as an instrument as well as a voice, blending into the music. For the most part, it is the use of synths that create the feel of an “other world” – not merely otherworldly, but forcefully creating a complete sense of there being another realm from which IV draws his inspiration, and which he communicates to us. The fullness of the tones in this record, the breadth of the guitar tone, the roar of the synths, they all aid in this building process, turning it from a skeleton to a fully-fleshed entity.
There are no displays of technical virtuosity here, but everything is played with formidable assurance and conviction, every note and drum strike serving the purpose of building the expansive, sombre landscape of the album. All the tracks are bitterly melancholy, heated with smouldering embers of rage. It isn’t until the second or third lesson that ‘Enthroning…’ starts to show its true majesty, its sounds unfurling and coalescing into alien forms. There are true visionary moments in this album, where everything falls together to convey something great and sinister, lying on the borders of what we see, or what we allow ourselves to see. As an example, midway through Abhorrence IIX, the tumult of the drums, the flight of the synths, and the deathly gasps and growls of IV all conspire to leave the listener feeling that there’s a brooding shadow surrounding them, and elsewhere the aforementioned “landscape” of the album is clearly defined in the listener’s mind. As an extra bonus, the cover art is almost perfectly matched in style and content to the music and the images it creates, and the haunting pair work in tandem to build an atmosphere that almost exists as a third entity in a trinity that makes up this album.

I would say my only criticism of ‘Enthroning…’ is that for all its visionary moments, it doesn’t push itself far enough. The shadow of Emperor is recognisably cast across this album, and there are occasions where the cohesion starts to suggest repetition, although these are few and far between. Part of me wishes that Ill Omen could perhaps find ways to push the formula of black metal. The widening of the tones is used to good effect here, as are the synths, but there’s still a feeling in the back of my mind that whilst ‘Enthroning…’ opens up this intense and primal expanse, it doesn’t really explore it quite as much as it could. Then again, that’s possibly a small criticism in the face of such a powerful accomplishment.