The Supernatural Omnibus
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
Hailing from the sunless wintry depths of California, Nicodemus is the latest offering from Dark Symphonies records. Their second full-length “The Supernatural Omnibus” promises a collision of black, gothic, and progressive metal elements “to create an original expression of extreme metal so addictive and intense it literally sweeps the listener into the supernatural realm.” If that is indeed what this young band was hoping to accomplish with this disc, I regretfully have to confess that they failed miserably. Sadly, there is really nothing original, extreme or intense about this CD, and it is certainly anything but addictive. As much as I was hoping for a noteworthy new release from Dark Symphonies (a label that has a fairly good track record), I was let down.
Musically speaking, the band’s keyboards are promising – which doesn’t really say much about a predominantly metal band. A good bit of the more orchestral influenced strings are sweeping and majestic, but they need to watch out for the spacey parts – it worked for Rush so well because it was the late 70s and the 80s. The tolling church bells are well timed and wonderfully accent the driving rhythms of the album’s opening track “Something In The Walls.” Most of the piano parts are good, but they have the habit of falling into gooey sappy traps, as heard throughout the first third or so of the track “Harlot.” There are however shades of Beethoven on the short instrumental piece “Of Pride & Necessity.” But that track is sadly only about a minute and a half, and hardly the focus of this band. But perhaps such mature classically based music should be their focus? Surely, they could find a better way to merge such efficient piano playing with more sincere metal arrangements.
The guitars are deep and relatively crunchy, but fall victim to a muddied production. The primary drawback about a lot of the guitar riffing is that it tends to sound very dated. They throw in a lot of major keys, and unlike bands like Opeth who somehow manage to make lighter guitar melodies just as devastating and atmospheric as minor key passages, Nicodemus end up creating a kind of classic yet watered down heavy metal sound that might possibly strike a chord or two in some more traditional metal fans, but it left me entirely unmoved. Especially considering the band’s supposed intention on weaving a diabolical and bewitching atmosphere.
What really causes Nicodemus to fall into cookie-cutter territory are the vocals. Three or four vocal styles pop up throughout the disc, most frequently a gurgling unintelligible death growl that just sounds corny and hardly monstrous or foreboding in the least. Just outright annoying and fatiguing. The black metal rasps are equally as sloppy, but preferable to the deeper voice by far. There is a greater intensity to them, but they still fall short of any truly memorable effect. The clean male vocals are flat and harmonize poorly with the below average female backup harmonies. The vocals fail on nearly all accounts – a shame, but the unfortunate truth.
Nicodemus mean well – they try earnestly to produce a grandiose and epic atmosphere with their music, but somehow, the final result is less than impressive. Personally I feel that the band latched onto the wrong elements of the genres they hoped to explore, leading to an album full of worn out ‘gothic’ (and my word do I use that adjective loosely) clichés. The lyrics are extremely corny and the mood they hope to create seems extremely forced rather than one rich with dark fantasy. It’s like they picked up a black metal poetry kit and went nuts on their kitchen fridge. Antiquated phrasings – thee, thou, shalt, etc only clutter the flow of the lyrics and are glaringly out of place, rather than adding an elevated sense of mediaeval Romance.
Additionally words like “sorrow” “night” “shades” “solace” “passion” and images of the woods appear in unnecessary abundance and it just doesn’t work. And truly, what exactly does the song title “Shards Of A Bitter Night Wept” mean? How exactly can night be broken into shards? I can see how an evening can be bitter, but why are the shards weeping? I know, don’t take these things so literally – but then why should bands write lyrics at all?
Nicodemus can’t be blamed however – they are merely following procedure and doing what is expected of dark metal bands today. The dark metal scene is currently choking in its own creative bile, as bands constantly regurgitate the same formulaic material over and over. Granted, I am all about the occult and other supernatural Gothicism in lyrics but the manner in which these subjects are presented is tiresome. I have been saying this for quite awhile and of course things have not changed much. But until some bands come around and put a creative spin on things, I am guarding my praise and high words. To settle for mediocrity is only to encourage it, and therefore, I have to be tough on Nicodemus. Throw up your middle fingers to this crusty reviewer and redeem yourselves with a stronger follow-up.
Nicodemus - Official Site:
Dark Symphonies Records/Distribution: