Ofnus / Harrowing Soundtrack of Despair is a Black Metal Masterpiece

It is probably a bad idea to write a review of an album that is filled with sadness, misery, and darkness when you are sitting in the garden enjoying another sun-filled day, but timing was never my forte. So, despite the thermometer reaching the mid-20s, it’s South Wales promising Black Metallers Ofnus who are providing the soundtrack.

Ofnus – Time Held Me Grey And Dying (Naturmacht Productions)

Release Date: 30 June 2023

Words: Paul Hutchings

It’s unlikely that the members of Ofnus will be known to that many, but lurking in this five-man collective is substantial experience, with Bloodstock alumni spread throughout the band. Three Metal To The Masses winners, as well as M2TM finalists, provide the background to a harrowing soundtrack of despair, guaranteed to send you into a spiral of self-loathing.

Ofnus - Catch them at Bloodstock this year
Ofnus – Catch them at Bloodstock this year

Drawing deep on influences from across the Black Metal sphere, Ofnus have been able to craft their own sound. The opening track, Burned By The Soul Of The Moon, echoes Norwegian gods Immortal, with William Philpott’s rasping delivery a harrowing yet authentic and emotional experience. That he brings these over walls of shimmering riffs and thunderous blast beats is no mean feat.

It’s a track that clearly sets out the band’s position. This isn’t something joyous, no celebration or addition to a festive playlist for Ofnus. No, take your grief, and revel in it. But try to enjoy the craft on offer, for there is a majestic quality about this song. The latter, almost monastic and echoing refrain, brings a refreshing transition which is seismic in every aspect.

It’s a thrilling introduction to an album that is every bit as exciting as it is depressing. Work that out if you can. Only the tragic fade marks a minor demerit.

I’ve had this album for some time, but every play reveals additional elements missed on previous run-throughs. The colossal soundscape presented in The Endless Grey is an avalanche, a cascade that dives deeply into the inner soul. The layered synths that add context and depth work in harmony with the captured swell of intensity. The fact that some elements are steeped in the traditional Black Metal vaults doesn’t detract for one minute.

Ofnus - prepare to be blown away
Ofnus – “…prepare to be blown away.”

Fading Dreams brings nothing particularly new to the table, yet it captivates with its sheer magnitude. Aggressive time changes, driving passages that switch between flat-out brutality and a more melodic groove, it’s something that will either draw you in or repel you instantly. If you are in the former camp, then the sweeping majesty of it all is likely to be more compelling.

As you grapple with the rolling movements, the more you appreciate the overall complexity, creativity, and sublime compositions. First release, Grains Of Sand, may be known to you, but if not, the sheer intensity of this dramatic piece with its orchestral flow is hugely captivating. It’s the equivalent of the photographer’s money shot and leads beautifully into the haunting link of Monody. Cinematic in style, harrowing in feel, with a ghostly, ethereal quality, it provides another dimension to the songwriting.

Move to the final three tracks on this toweringly impressive album, and the tempo increases. Exulansis is a rollercoaster of emotions, whilst the bombastic Echoes is surely one of the most impressive tracks on the album. Its huge driving power must be experienced through headphones, those that cancel out all other noise, for this is simply immense.

It leads to the towering finale of this stunning album. A Thousand Lifetimes showcases everything that Ofnus do well. It’s a cascade of tremolo riffing, blistering drumming, punishing bass and deeply disturbing vocals that resonate long after they cease. It’s a song that draws deep on the well of Winterfylleth, and that, in my book, is most acceptable.

Crafting a huge change in pace midway through, with a switch to clean vocals and a more melodious flow, A Thousand Lifetimes is breathtaking. Multi-dimensional, embracing much more than the traditional Black Metal tropes, there is something special lurking here.

They may be but dreaming men, but dreams have a habit of coming true. Catch Ofnus on the New Blood Stage at Bloodstock and prepare to be blown away. This has Album of the Year written all over it.

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