(In this post DGR reviews the new album by Tampa-based Ovid’s Withering.)
As we sprint toward the back half of the year, there are still albums out there that I feel need to be reviewed by the site. Though new releases have lightened up as the year draws to a close, the occasional one still comes through that needs to be talked about because they are heavy contenders to appear on a lot of year-end lists, and these bands will have seemingly come out of nowhere for some people.
Ovid’s Withering is one such band, a group from Tampa, Florida who have been pounding the ground for some time now, putting out a couple of EPs (Cloud Gatherer was reviewed here by TheMadIsraeli) and demos for people to check out – music of such good quality that the group had a tremendous amount of steam behind them by the time they released their debut album Scryers Of The Ibis in November of this year.
Ovid’s Withering combine many of the genre strands that have gained traction in death metal and deathcore as of late, infusing the aforementioned two with elements pulled from progressive, djent (their definition on Bandcamp, I’m trying to avoid the phrase), groove, blackened, and even symphonic metal. Many bands who do this tend to be overwhelmed by their own ambition, but Ovid’s Withering manage to take music from genres whose labels tend to make the eyes of the closeted metal elitist in all of us roll backwards into our skulls and make it work — becoming an amalgamation of all of those things, pulling the best from each and making it their own sound.
On top of all this, the group have based much of their material on a vast knowledge of Greek mythology, as there are multiple allusions to it throughout their releases.
Ovid’s Withering remain unsigned in the US but are signed to Subliminal Groove Records in Canada. Scryers Of The Ibis is their debut disc, and though it’s been a long time coming, it’s the reason you’ll be hearing their name more and more in the future. The album is a collection of newer tracks and older songs from their previous releases that have been redone and altered slightly in order to update them for this album. It is in the newer songs that Ovid’s Withering really make an impression as a band given to epic, genre-spanning, deathcore-chug-heavy songs.
The album opens super-strong with the one-two punch of “Earthshaker I” and “II”, which begin the narrative that spans throughout much of the disc. There is actually narration within these two songs, often punctuated by some of the beefiest breakdowns to hit in some time, especially the one in “Earthshaker II” after the “gods that drowned at his feet” line. That one is like a seven-ton weight with “crush everything” falling on your head.
Much of the narration is actually delivered in a black metal vocal style, severely reminiscent of Carach Angren’s vocalist Seregor. Vocally, Ovid’s Withering are multifaceted, with at least four people on the mic throughout much of Scryers Of The Ibis. So often there will be multiple high and low voices going at once, adding to the group’s epic quality and differentiating them from a bunch of different bands who play the same thick, groove-heavy riffs that Ovid’s play with.
Of course, the music also includes a heavy keyboard and symphonic element, much more so on the newer songs than on the older tracks. It is in those moments that Ovid’s sound a bit like a more death metal focused The Breathing Process. Since it seems like those guys aren’t up to much these days (still waiting on my Odyssey (un)Dead sequel dammit), I will take that sound WHEREVER I can get it.
“Murder To Dissect” is a humongous highlight of this album. The whole track is just a thick, massive song that stomps around, and even though you’ll hear grooves like this throughout much of Scryers, for some reason it just hits super hard on “Murder To Dissect”. The riffs that make you do that weird bird-neck headbang thing hit doubly hard, and when the band punctuate the “OH. MURDER TO DISSECT.”, with each stop being like the whole group stopping, make it feel like the band are just punching you in the sternum each time. The closing lead melody on guitar from the five- to six-minute mark, with the keys that also comes back to close out the tune, is also an epic movement that really helps highlight just how goddamned good “Murder To Dissect” is. It also leads into the hugest breakdown on the album in “Exile”, which is just absolutely massive.
In regard to the older songs, people who have been with Ovid’s Withering since The Cloud Gatherer EP will recognize “Oedipus Complex”, “The Reckoning, The Summoning, The Purge”, “The Omen Of Lycaon” (featuring guest vocals by Jamie from The Absence), and “Panikon Deima” – which is now the album’s closing track. Though the songs have been re-recorded, very little within them has changed as they are structurally the same.
“Oedipus Complex” still slams insanely hard and serves as a hell of an opener to the aforementioned favorite of “Murder To Dissect”. “The Omen Of Lycaon” still has Jamie from The Absence sounding absolutely monstrous alongside the rest of the band’s multiple vocal attacks and still includes many an absolutely massive breakdown, especially the really short one around the three-minute mark combined with the super-low vocal grunts. It’s been altered slightly for added brutality, but I’d be damned if I didn’t say I completely turn into Cro-Magnon man during that small section.
“Panikon Deima”, now the album’s closing track instead of the opener, as it was on The Cloud Gatherer, has probably changed the most, in terms of song length and added ambiance. The band have added close to two minutes to the song, but it still feels just as good as it builds up to that massive roar of “PANIKON DEIMA… ” that makes everyone do the invisible orange move. So, even though you may have listened to it many a time on The Cloud Gatherer, it’s hard to deny that specific line giving you a shot of vitality and the will to destroy the world around you. The older tunes are interspersed amongst the regular track list, so you never feel a strong sense of familiarity, and they fit in damn well with the rest of the new material on Scryers.
Scryers Of The Ibis, amongst all of this, is also a length-value disc, which works both for and against the band multiple times. It actually reminds me a lot of the old days of videogame reviews where the value/dollar ratio was always in favor of Japanese RPGs, with critics constantly citing that, since the games were clearly over one hundred hours and cost fifty bucks, then they were your best value. I say this, because I feel like I’m making the same statement with regards to Ovid’s Withering, although not as shallow or face-value oriented.
Scryers Of The Ibis is a long disc, with songs easily reaching the stratosphere of six to seven minutes without effort; a song like “The Gods Of Shepherds And Flocks” coming in at two minutes and eleven seconds is a stunner. It is a long disc, but it also a very dense disc. Ovid’s have packed so many different things into each song that it takes multiple listening runs to truly pin down everything that happens within each one – which is the plus and minus part of this.
Sometimes, if you’re just breezing through the disc it can feel like Scryers is dragging its feet, especially if you haven’t familiarized yourself with every song, so even though there is always really good, hammering groove coming up every once in a while, you may find yourself convinced that you’ve reached the end, although you’re only on track eight or nine. Most of the time the band pull off song after song without any notice of time passing by though, as you’re enveloped in the multiple layers of story and instrumentation that are present – it’s just the occasional time when this happens that proves even the best bands can be a little weighed down in their ambition.
Even though some of the material can be overly ambitious and drag a tad, Scryers Of The Ibis is a fucking super-impressive debut by Ovid’s Withering. There’s no other way to put it. The band took older material and made it sound brand new, and the newer songs are just the sheer embodiment of violence throughout. The group have a gargantuan melting plot of influences, and you can recognize so many different elements and strains of them in all of the songs, yet the band still succeed in using them to create a sound that is (almost) entirely their own.
Scryers Of The Ibis is an epic-length album, and at the ten bucks the band are asking for it, it feels like a steal. This disc is one that will likely be on a ton of year-end lists and is going to give the group tremendous momentum as they head into the future. It’s certainly one of the few discs I’ve felt NCS absolutely had to talk about before the year end, before everybody sees this album pop up on some of the lists (if not just my own) and wonder just where the hell it came from. Surprisingly enough, it comes from Florida (and isn’t a giant sinkhole!), it hits ridiculously hard, has heavy as hell grooves, is insanely creative and ambitious, and breaths a lot of life into a bunch of genres that many folks were likely to write off otherwise.