Merrimack - Omegaphilia - (8/10)
Published on July 5, 2017
Label:Season of Mist
France has solidified its status as one of the premier centers of black metal over the course of the last decade or so. The list of innovative French bands that have pushed black metal in new, critically acclaimed directions includes Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord, and The Great Old Ones. But the country has also produced some quality bands that play a more conventional style of black metal. Merrimack, with their fifth album Omegaphilia, is one such band.
Unlike the previously mentioned bands, Merrimack has been an inconsistent band for large chunks of their career. 2006’s Of Entropy and Life Denial was a wonderful slab of second wave worship, but the band has never equaled it, and until Omegaphilia they’ve never even really come close. Omegaphilia is easily their best album in the decade since Of Entropy and Life Denial, and it gets a lot of the same things right. Omegaphilia is an impressive piece of furious, second wave black metal, heavily indebted to the Swedish scene, in particular Marduk and Watain.
Like those bands, Merrimack uses an instantly recognizable formula of hellish blasts, razor sharp riffs, and tortured harsh rasps. Merrimack leans towards the heavier side of black metal; the bass is nice and audible and the band slows down occasionally to sinister effect. Omegaphilia also has a really smart use of melody; they’re used to build songs early and repeat when the song reaches its crescendo. The band keeps the melodies subtle, but use them to build fantastic tracks like the opener “Cauterizing Cosmos.” Another highlight of the album is Blastum’s (that’s really his stage name) drumming. His blasts are one thing, but he employs some really intricate cymbal work, reminiscent of Darkside’s drumming on Mgła’s Exercises in Futility.
But Omegaphilia has some problems, and to some extent they’re the same issues that plagued 2012’s The Acausal Mass and 2009’s Grey Rigorism. The album has some bloat; songs feel too long at times and the band’s penchant for dragging things out is still present. It’s also a little inconsistent; the opening three tracks are monsters, and the epic closer “At the Vanguard of Deception” is great too, but the middle of the album isn’t quite as strong. But these flaws are far more muted on Omegaphilia than they have been on the previous two albums and it’s a consistently better album in every way.
It took Merrimack a few albums, but the promise they showed on Of Entropy and Life Denial has finally reared its head again. Omegaphilia in that sense is a triumph and it’s the sound of a band overcoming adversity and delivering an album that’s an easy recommendation for fans of traditional black metal.