What makes a good album? I’m not talking about some genre-redefining meisterwerk, just a good, solid album. Intricate riffs, lots of intricate riffs, nifty tempo changes, soaring melodies, passionate vocals? Sure, all those things count in one way or another but I think what it really comes down to in the end is balance. Y’know, that elusive (and oft overlooked) element that just makes everything ‘click’ and flow in just the right way.
OK, I’m not going to elaborate further on this issue; suffice to say, OGEN’s debut EP has a kick-ass sense of balance to it. “Black Metal Unbound” is not going to revolutionize the Black Metal genre, and there’s really not much on here you haven’t already heard countless times before, but this two-man Italian act really know how to pen a solid BM tune or two, and at the end of the day their songs simply go down really smooth... Looking for comparisons? Well, I guess a well-heeled mix of “Under The Sign Of Hell” era GORGOROTH, BELPHEGOR, and early BLUT AUS NORD just about sums up their sound. OGEN’s music isn’t necessarily as aggressive as the first two bands nor quite as eerily dissonant as the latter’s, but they capture that specific vein of traditional-yet-moody BM sound quite well on here. The tempo remains resolutely mid-paced throughout, but the great little melodic break about halfway through “Shattered Earth Volcano,” the effective use of clean vocals in “As Leaden As Sun Shineth Upon” spice things up enough to keep the ball rolling. Elsewhere, there is also the space-y atmosphere of “Black Tusk Rebellion” and the aggressive thrust of “A Steep Slope To Desolation,” with the latter track in particular bringing to mind the aforementioned BELPHEGOR/BLUT AUS NORD comparisons. I also really appreciate the fact that the band managed to keep the thick vibe of dread and bleakness intact throughout the whole affair without ever letting the songs degenerate into one of those piss poor “depro” BM exercises.
Top off this strong display of song writing with a solid production job and you have yourself a great little EP in your hands. Like I said, it’s nothing that original but these Italians get the job done when it matters. This one is recommended for those who prefer their Black Metal the primal way (but with a sly sense of brains behind the scenes too). Good stuff!
(Online May 16, 2011)