Antestor – Omen


OmensFrom the ominous opening of “Treacherous Domain”, it’s obvious that Antestor is back and in top form. Powerful slow riffing picks up some black metal vocals and then the thunderous drumming kicks in and the song literally explodes but doesn’t lose its sense of melody and dark, foreboding atmosphere along the way. Add in some guitars solos perfectly matched to the song and some atmospheric, symphonic elements for contrast and a chunky closing riff section and you have experienced Antestor. Long-time fans will not be disappointed with Omen and the strength of the musicianship and song writing should win Antestor new fans.

For a band that has demos dating back to 1991 (The Defeat of Satan) and less than five full length albums in twelve years, Antestor is a band steeped in history and lore and they have gained the respect of the black/extreme metal community at-large, both the Christian and secular sides. Antestor’s long road includes everything from death threats and being dropped by their label over their Christian beliefs to having legendary drummer Hellhammer (Mayhem) record drums for two of their releases (The Forsaken and Det Tapte Liv). Omen is the first albums since 2005’s The Forsaken and marks the first album appearance of several new band members, Erik Normann Aanonsen (Moddi) joined on bass, guitarist Robert Bordevik (Grievance, Vardøger), drummer Jo Henning Børven (Morgenroede) and keyboardist Nickolas Main Henriksen (Aspera, Desdemon).

Whenever a legendary band reforms and releases new material, expectations run high, and I admit that I was a bit leery of this release because my own expectations were so high. The Forsaken is one of my favorite albums in general, and I have a lot more hardcore and punk than metal in my collection. Antestor has described their sound as “Atmospheric Sorrow Metal” instead of black metal due to the satanic connotations often attached to the term black metal, and really their description paints a good picture of their music. On The Forsaken, I love the contrast between the clean, almost operatic female vocals and the black metal style vocals, the overall ambience and feel of the music as a whole, the interplay between the symphonic and metal elements, and then what has become the trademark Antestor-style riffs and blast beats. Music like this is timeless, it’s almost 8 years old and still sounds fresh, unique and powerful. Like I said, expectations for Omen were set high…

As it turns out, I didn’t have to wait long into Omen to get my answer, I was hooked after the first seconds of the opening track with its ominous guitar riff and shrieking fills over the top. I could only hope that the rest of the album could sustain this great start. Overall, what I found listening to Omen was a great atmospheric dark solemn tone set by the keyboards and symphonic elements. The more I listen to this album, the more I hear these background elements and appreciate not only the contrast they provide to the metal, but also their addition to the overall feel of the music as they create a great backdrop.

Fans of older Antestor material will certainly hear elements of Martyrium and The Forsaken and any of these songs on Omen are unmistakenly Antestor in sound. That being said, Antestor brings in some new elements, new riffing styles, new vocal styles, new usage of clean vocals, to keep things fresh. To my ears, the song “Benighted” combines the old Antestor sound with these new elements and in “All Towers Must Fall”, there are even some vocal and riffing elements that add a folk-metal feel, while the main verses carry a very intricate guitar riff.

The beginning In Solitude reminds me the most of older Antestor in song structure and style but then in the middle is a slower section with almost spoken lyrics as the person in the song comes to realize that “All pain that I’ve ever known, I reap only what my past has sown”. As the voice in the song comes to this realization and panic sets in the pace picks back up and the black metal vocals return, carrying the listener along on this journey. The song concludes with the speaker coming to peace with a revelation, that he cannot save himself, “As I lay here, waiting for You beside me, to keep me calm I feel your spirit comforting me and within me, I’m saved through grace.” Powerful story illustrated by powerful music.

To be fair, I do have a couple issues with this album. There seems to be a lack of bass and low-end in the mix, at least for my preference and I would have liked the vocals mixed a bit louder, but in the big picture, Antestor has come roaring back from an extended hiatus and given us a great album that leaves me hoping we won’t have to wait another seven years for the next one. I should also add that I wish I lived in Brazil as Antestor have recently left their homes in Norway for a tour in Brazil (January 2013).

Rating: 9.5/10

Written by John Jackson

1. Treacherous Domain
2. Unchained
3. In Solitude
4. The Kindling
5. Remnants
6. All Towers Must Fall
7. Torn Apart
8. Tilflukt
9. Benighted
10. Morkets Grode

Band Members:
Lars Stokstad – Guitars/Keyboards/Clean Vocals
Ronny Hansen – Vocals
Erik Normann Aanonsen – Bass/acc instr
Jo Henning Børven – Drums
Robert Bordevik – Guitars/Backing Vocals
Nickolas Main Henriksen – Keyboards

Record Label: Bombworks Records, Dec. 2012

Weblinks: Facebook / Website / Twitter

The Defeat of Satan [demo, 1991]
Despair [demo, 1993]
Martyrium [1994]
Kongsblod [promo, 1998]
The Return of the Black Death [1998]
The Defeat of Satan [compilation, 2003]
Det Tapte Liv [EP, 2004]
The Forsaken [2005]

Buy the album here:
 First Paradox 
 Nordic Mission

Treacherous Domain

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