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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Macabre Omen - Gods of War – At War [Ván Records - 2015]

An air of adventure is difficult to cultivate in a genre focused blasphemy, brutality, and perversion. And although that tradition dates back to Bathory’s first Viking metal albums, very few bands are able to touch on that adventurous pride pioneered back in the late 80s. Macabre omen are of these few bands.

Originally hailing from Greece before relocating to the UK, Macabre Omen’s founder and frontman Alexandros intends to keep that flame alive and carry the torch into the 21st century. Gods of War – At War is just Macabre Omen’s second full-length in a twenty year career, and comes a full decade after their first album. Ten years is a long time to work on an album, but Gods of War – At War shows that none of the time was wasted, because this is the single greatest release of 2015 thus far.

I mentioned Bathory early on because that’s clearly where Macabre Omen draws much of its influence from. If their two Bathory tribute 7” weren’t enough proof for you, all you need to listen to is the monstrous opener “I See, the Sea”, a sprawling 8 minute saga that opens up with the rush of the waves and creak of oars before going into an epic Bathory-styled choir followed by bombastic, soaring riffs. But the adventure doesn’t stop there; without warning, the song erupts into dazzling tremolo riffing that recalls the early works of other Greek greats like Varathron and Rotting Christ. The way the opener leads into the title track is perfect; after the final, proud declaration “Death should fear me,” “Gods of War – At War” breaks out into jagged, dissonant riffs before leading into a thunderous charge into battle over galloping double bass kicks. And the continuity between tracks doesn’t end with the second. The resounding chorus of “Gods of War – At War” leads perfectly into the folkish intro of “Man of 300 Voices”, a crushing track recounting the tale of Leonidas, whose final notes lead into “Hellenes Do Not Fight like Heroes, Heroes Fight like Hellenes”, a resounding call to war and to emulate the ancient Greeks. Each track flows into the next perfectly and connects the album with a strong narrative link, which gives the album a palpable sense of urgency and adventure.

Something that must be recognized is that is monumental effort is largely the result of a single man. Except for the percussion, all instrumentals and vocals were performed by Alexandros, as well as all the writing. This album is a testament to what one can accomplish when they set their mind to it, because everything about this work is perfect. It captures not only the elegance and majesty of ancient Greece’s impossibly advanced architecture and culture with tracks like the gentler “From Son to Father”, but also the ruthless efficiency and might of an empire that spanned centuries with songs such as “Rhodian Pride, Lindian Might”, whose powerful tremolo riffs and devastating blast beats could level mountains. The album’s epic atmosphere brings to mind The Odyssey, and all the triumphs and tribulations that accompany it.

It would be a mistake to say that Macabre Omen and Gods of War – At War dwell entirely in the past. Although the main inspirations for the project are Bathory, Ancient Greek history, and the early Hellenic scene, none of these influences come to dominate Macabre Omen’s sound. And where I was only able to hear Bathory upon the first listen, I’ve come to only be able to hear Macabre Omen and the unique integration of inspiration and original material. This truly is a unique album, and one that can stand head to head with any of Bathory’s classic material as well as any of the classics from the early Greek black metal scene.

I was prepared to write off 2015 as a slow year for black metal, but with a single blow, Macabre Omen has proved me wrong. Not only is this album accomplished from a technical point of view (and made all the more impressive being the creation of a sole individual), but from a song writing perspective as well. Each track leads into the next as naturally as winter gives way to spring, and the hour runtime is over in the blink of an eye. Gods of War – At War is simultaneously a heart achingly beautiful ode to a homeland now far away and a riveting call to arms and national pride. It is able to distance itself from its influences to create a truly unique and memorable sound, and is unlikely to make its way out of my CD player anytime soon. It is without a doubt the greatest album released in 2015, and a classic in the making - an absolutely stupendous effort. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another decade for the follow-up album, but if it’s as good as Gods of War – At War, I’ll find little to complain about.

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Tyler L.
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