HM-2 you say? Well fuck me with the rough end of a pineapple if this one doesn’t just leap out of the speakers and say yes, yes indeed, here, have an earful! Italy’s Ontberg are here with their debut “Within The Depths of Oblivion”, and a mighty fine effort it is to say the least. This here bunch of plucky young chaps have obviously had their ears finely tuned almost directly towards the north, and you can guess the country they focused on almost immediately.
Sweden would be the one, and as loath as I have always been to mention influences, one has to say that if you can’t pick up a little bit of Entombed in this, a shade or three of Amon Amarth, and any other Swedish Melodic Death Metal act, then best you go get a hearing check. Does this make them run of the mill? It well could do, but luckily for us it hasn’t. Yes they may well draw from a vast pool of already been there done that’s, but for a first outing into the realms of the bearded axe wielder, the longboat, and the cold icy tundra, these indefatigable young buggers may very well have been born under a statue of Odin himself.
Razor sharp buzzsaw riffs ride roughshod over an incredibly solid rhythm section, and the vocals are exactly as they should be, that of a man standing over a field of triumph, banner and sword held high, the melodies the ravens that circle ceaselessly over the carnage, dropping a wing now and then to plummet to the ground and pick at the newly deceased. Each and every song pushing the victorious onto further conquest, more blood flows, and the axe and the blade and the hammer rain down crushing skull upon skull.
This is the kind of stuff that invokes a war like state of mind. Opener “Living is a Torture” doesn’t ease you into the battle, it fucking launches itself into the fray with a swinging blade and a grimace on it’s face. This is the moment where you know what you are getting, and from then on in it just gets better. “Entwined in Darkness” begins as a moment of clarity, soaring melody is the key to the gate, crunching riffs and pounding drums lie beneath the voice of a man in such pain that he feels the need to shout at the very sky itself in the hope it may achieve something, in the hope of an answer from the very God that created him, and of course there is no reply, for nothing is real apart from his anguish. Some real beauty to be taken in, such power packed into each and every moment.
There are pure moments in this album that just make you want to slap your brothers on the back before you check the weight of your weapon and tighten your grip as you prepare to meet the enemy, facing the possibility of your demise with a light heart. Both courage and pride casting their fateful shadows across your face as they often do before the slaughter commences. “This Time” may well be your time to ascend to Valhalla, “Die to be Alive” is your only thought as you take the life of foe after foe. The “Snow of Lethe” crunches under your hide boots and slowly but surely turns into a bloody red sea of despair. There are “No Memories Beyond” this exact moment. You are in your element, you were born for this.
It is as foretold. “The Long Awaited Winter” has come, and with it the hopes and dreams of so many will perish, maybe even your own, but you have blood in your eyes and the stench of death surrounds you. Horses scream, and men drop to their knees and wail in agony as the blade and the arrow pierce their very souls, one day this place will be sacred, it will be remembered forever. They may not mention you by name in this “Black Garden”, but they will most certainly honour your sacrifice.
As you can see, this is certainly some inspirational stuff. I’m not going to tell you that this is groundbreaking, nor is it thoroughly original, but by the very gods themselves this is a damn fine romp into the world of Melodic Death Metal for Ontberg, and to this I raise my shield and my sword and say ‘väl mött’, or in their native tongue maybe this ‘onore e valore’. Well met indeed Ontborg, honour and valor to you and yours.
Rating – 4/5.
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