Album Review :
A Hill To Die Upon - Omens

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Band: A Hill to Die Upon
Title: Omens
Label: Bombworks Records
Release Date: 5/23/11
Reviewer: Taylor C.

Tracklisting:

  1. Darkness That Can Be Felt
  2. The Perfection of Evil
  3. Adept In Divinity
  4. The Chant of Mighty Offspring
  5. Heka Primus (Ordo Norma Mysterium)
  6. I Come As Black Fire
  7. Nehushtan
  8. May the Thing Be Destroyed
  9. Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down
  10. Ancient Enemy of Death

For the life of me, I can never understand why Illinois-based A Hill To Die Upon isn’t the most popular band in the Christian death metal scene. Forgive the four upcoming clichés, but their first album, Infinite Titanic Immortal, was an ace in the hole, packing a punch that defined the term “epic” and proved the band worthy to go head to head against secular outfits of the same blackened-death metal genre (Behemoth, Naglfar, Azarath, and Vader, just to name a few). Their second album to date, Omens, is no different; it takes no steps backwards, only determined lunges deeper into a unpitying swarm of flesh, bronze, iron and holy blood. In short, with Omens, A Hill To Die Upon sacrifices the so-called “sophomore slump” with a couple of goats on a primordial altar. And it’s delicious.

Dark melodies (ominous, chilling and groovy) accompanied by battle-march riffs, pelting drums that sound like arrows raining down on shields, and roaring war-cries dominate the 37 minute record. Tired of the ancient battle metaphors? Then don’t listen to the enunciated words that Adam growls, because the lyrics of Omens are enough to make a nerd like myself squeal. Inspired by passages from Tolkien’s Middle Earth books (yes, there is Elvish in this album), English philosophers, Dante’s Inferno, The Old and New Testament, and Greek mythology, Omens‘ lyrics employ the same “kvlt” aura from their first album and create a spiritually rich (albeit confusing at times) landscape to explore. To add to this atmosphere is the artwork itself—which looks like a copper engraving depicting an old myth.

Another great aspect about this album, other than its aforementioned par excellence 37 minute time frame, is its ability to keep the listener interested with varying and unique tracks that still manage to deliver the thick heaviness of the genre. For example, one of the more standout tracks is a remake of the traditional, gospel, Great-Depression tune “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down”—an extremely catchy track with a simple AM EM AM chord progression that immediately takes one from the Styx to The Sticks.

Similarly, by the time the sick, crunchy riff of “I Came As Black Fire” comes to a close, the band provides an acoustic, instrumental entitled “Nehushtan” (appropriately named after the healing brass snake of the Old Testament). However, once this track is over, the savage beating continues until the very last track, “Ancient Enemy of Death.” This song draws the album to a gloomy close, with Adam’s snarl speaking of rebirth, repentance, darkness and decay, giving way to a series of wailing shrieks that ring out until the song’s end. This leaves the listener disheartened and staring at the ground…almost waiting to be swallowed up like the sons of Korah in Numbers 16. But then, after fifty-six seconds of silence, a beautiful, acappella female voice rises from the roiled waters, redeeming the album’s black soul with a short stanza of the hymn, “What Wondrous Love is This?” There is nothing about, or in, A Hill To Die Upon’s new album that I do not love.

Overall: This album is awful in the olden sense of the word—full of awe. With Omens, A Hill To Die Upon delivers just as much blackened death metal and mythological-spirituality as their first album …and then some.

[iTunes.]

RIYL: Crimson Moonlight, Behemoth, Naglfar, Azarath, Vader, Becoming the Archetype.

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