Finnish doom metal seems to be one of the more obscurer cuts of the underground music scene these days, though the sub-genre itself has now been exhausted beyond belief, like many others. No stranger to this musical style is former Reverend Bizarre member Sami Albert Hynninen, a man who is now busier than ever before with a long line of more or less secretive musical projects. The most interesting of which (and perhaps one of the first after Reverend Bizarre split) is Opium Warlords, a project which at times is worlds apart from the doom-laden soundscapes of yesteryear, though frequently dabbles with experimentation whenever and wherever possible. The latest album, entitled “Taste my Sword of Understanding”, is certainly no exception to this formula.
Whilst “Taste my Sword…” essentially harks back to the times when Reverend Bizarre were at their heaviest, it still seems to be deeply entrenched in a world of its own. However, the excessive experimentation here is both its best friend and worst enemy, as some songs seem to clash with others in almost every aspect. It’s not an absolutely mental piece of work (nor is it really monumental), but throughout the album’s 70+ minute journey through confusing song structures and mesmerizing instrumentation. Perhaps the two major downsides to this album then are completely directionless opener ‘The Sadness of Vultures’ and the unfortunately tedious ‘The God in Ruins’. Whilst the former essentially repeats the same bass-led rhythm for five minutes or so over a background of gradual echoes and murmuring noises, the latter often falls flat on its face because of a gratingly annoying vocal delivery. The vocal delivery essentially tries to emulate the exact feelings of a God in ruins, but together with the doom-laden, depressing instrumental performance it simply doesn’t work. There’s no effectiveness to be found, and despite a decent barrage of heaviness towards the end, it seems too little too late to be enjoyed.
That said, there are plenty of better moments to indulge in, and these moments largely overshadow the flaws. Songs like ‘Opium Warlords: The Self-made Man’ (which should really have been the album’s opener as opposed to the sleep-inducing ‘The Sadness of Vultures’) and ‘The land beyond the pole’ fully embrace the thundering heaviness of the rhythm section, powering through at a brain-battering, ear-shattering pace whilst still remaining unique thanks to the strange experiments occurring at the same time. The more lengthier likes of ‘Mount Meru’ (The album’s highlight, undoubtedly) tower over the distortion-filled guitar work and an acid-induced atmosphere, fully hypnotizing anyone who happens to be fully focused. It’s all impressively detailed music, yet the main flaw here is how overpowering the experimentation can actually get. The worst way in which this flaw affects the album is simply the vocal delivery, where Sami attempts a more varied approach to accompanying the instrumental performance. At times, as on ‘This Place has been passed’ and closer ‘Opium Warlords: In melancholy moonless Acheron’, Sami’s voice is brilliantly depressing, whereas on songs like ‘The God in ruins’, they come across as an extremely weak aspect of the band’s sound.
All in all, “Taste my sword of Understanding” is for the most part a mixed bag. However, there is also quite a lot for everybody to at least find decent before nodding their head in appreciation, and this is simply due to the experimentation which strangers to the likes of Reverend Bizarre will find refreshing. Continuing with this project could be a very promising one if Sami travels further into the musical realms of the unknown, and so “Taste my Sword…” is in that respect fairly successful.
Released: May 30th, 2014.
1. The Sadness of Vultures
2. Opium Warlords: The Self-Made Man
3. The God in Ruins
4. The solar Burial
5. The Land beyond the Pole
6. Mount Meru
7. This Place has been passed
8. Manisolas from Misandria
9. Opium Warlords: In melancholy moonless Acheron