Ophiuchi - Bifurcaria Bifurcata review




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Reviewer:
8.5

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Band: Ophiuchi
Album: Bifurcaria Bifurcata
Release date: April 2017


01. Vestibule
02. Bifurcaria Bifurcata
03. Heliopause
04. Obol


On his web page, the South African behind this band states that his "influences include Portal, Blut Aus Nord, Tool, King Crimson and Yob." If this claim did not pique your interest, then move along. I bet it did, though, so let me introduce you to the multi-faceted, surrealistic world of Ophiuchi.

Yeah, I had no idea how to properly pronounce this name either (turns out it is "oh-FEE-you-kye" and not any one of the versions I have conjured up with my Swedish accent). Meaning "of Ophiuchus", the word is used to name stars belonging to the "serpent-bearer" constellation, which is unique in the way it splits another constellation, Serpens, into two parts: head (Serpens Caput) and tail (Serpens Cauda). Why the album is named after a sort of algae is anybody's guess (have fun), but Bifurcaria Bifurcata turns out to be a name quite befitting the nature of the music found here.

Ophiuchi's music could perhaps be described as progressive sludge. It could just as well be described as blackened post-metal, or folky doom metal, if not all these together, so genres will not be of much use to me here. Bifurcaria Bifurcata, however, comes off as not so much all over the place as a masterfully produced, cohesive whole that pulls you in with conspicuous rhythms that, as you get used to them, turn from chaotic to natural, and from challenging to effortless.

The acoustic guitar intro to "Vestibule" sets a folk-tinged, psychedelic mood as saturated, clean vocals rise up from the seabed, imploring you to "illuminate my compound eyes and shine my carapace". It soon turns out that the lyrics are not the only Kafkaesque element of this album, as what could pass for a dirtier, faster, and less melodic Tool riff enters along with blackened, half-drowned à la Isis vocals that proceed to carry the songs from here on. The drums go heavy on tribal tom-work, except for the few occasions they break out into blast beats. On the title track, with its unpredictable time signature changes and breaks of surrealistic atmosphere, the percussion comes together like a salty mix of Primordial and King Crimson.

The "progressive" can be heard constantly in the rhythms (but there is no technical noodling or particularly advanced harmonies going on here), sharing room with deftly used folky tones like on the Greek-tinged "Obol" (an old Greek coin, in accordance with the watery themes, used as payment for Charon to ferry a dead soul across the Styx), not to mention the Sólstafir-level simply beautiful piano piece "Heliopause." For all its variation, the music never strays far from the "blackened Tool" riffs and post-black soundscapes set forth at the start, only towards the final track bringing back the focus on melody that deceivingly starts the album.

What really makes this album shine is how the various aspects of the music are wed together by what I can only describe as an "organic" production. The distorted, monotone guitars crunch along (usually in unexpected time signatures) with a tone crispier than dried seaweed enveloping a half-eaten piece of sushi, and the expertly performed percussion pummels along (usually inů well, go figure) with oceanic heft as Ophiuchi's compositions seemingly take on a life of their own. If there is any fault to find, it is that "Obol" tends to drag a little, never reaching the heights of the tracks before, and I would have been perfectly content had the album ended with the final piano tones of "Heliopause."

I look very much forward to the new album planned for release this year, as should you. Until then, have a dive into this surreal landscape and let its bifurcating compositions wash over you. I faintly recall regarding this as album of the year material back in 2017 and I am still not even close to bored with it. Alien as it may be, Bifurcaria Bifurcata never fails to soundů alive.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 9
Production: 9

Written by Netzach | 31.01.2021


 


Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.


Comments

Comments: 4   Visited by: 15 users
31.01.2021 - 18:34
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Probably one of the best soft avant-garde metal albums I ever hear.
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31.01.2021 - 18:36
Netzach
Planewalker
Written by RaduP on 31.01.2021 at 18:34

Probably one of the best soft avant-garde metal albums I ever hear.

It is terrific, as easily listened as it is complex! I still find new things to hear in it after three years. Really stoked for his second album!
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01.02.2021 - 15:42
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Written by RaduP on 31.01.2021 at 18:34

Probably one of the best soft avant-garde metal albums I ever hear.

South Africa has potential, sad its long and has no metal traditions. Springbocks are good, they seems need re locate to Europe to be better and get attention
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04.02.2021 - 04:22
Netzach
Planewalker
Written by Bad English on 01.02.2021 at 15:42

South Africa has potential, sad its long and has no metal traditions. Springbocks are good, they seems need re locate to Europe to be better and get attention

I forgot to mention in my review that Ophiuchi as of a couple of years ago lives in Utrecht, Netherlands.
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