Omegaphilia by MerrimackRelease date: June 9, 2017
Label: Season of Mist
Merrimack has been around for many years, largely lurking in the underground throughout second-wave black metal’s heyday. They’ve released many records throughout the late nineties, jumping in late after the French underground scene led by bands like Mutiilation and Vlad Tepes, fizzled-out and many of the groups disbanded. Merrimack has at least never associated themselves with racist pseudo-Satanic prototypical black metal ideology, and they’ve been really focused on releasing music that they work hard to create. Out of the many obscure releases I heard early in the band’s career, I have only heard the compilation, Obsecrations to the Horned, a raw but potent black metal release that showed plenty of promise from the band.
The many line-up changes throughout the existence of the band has either been a deterrent to the band’s success or it has benefitted the band by involving plenty of fresh perspective when most needed. However, after the great line-up change that followed vaunted album Grey Rigorism raised questions about the band’s survival, the band bounced back with The Acausal Mass, which I liked, in spite of many fans feeling otherwise.
Merrimack’s latest album, Omegaphilia, is stoked in second wave-inspired frenzied tempos without the catchy song writing and simpler structure. I like it, but don’t love it. Here’s why:
When Merrimack largely abandoned their Ondskapt-inspired style on Grey Rigorism and chose a more uptempo approach, they also sacrificed some of the catchy songwriting and accessibility of their music. Of Entropy and Life Denial was second wave inspired but more imaginative. Really, the tribal percussion that Merrimack employs in their first track, ‘Cauterizing Cosmos’, is a nice example of the band utilizing some experimentation, but the album as a whole lacks of an original approach that separates Omegaphilia from other new age second wave tribute. Second wave was Mayhem’s memorable de Mysteriis, the memorable In the Nightside Eclipse, the memorable Under a Funeral Moon, but nowhere in Omegaphilia does the band write any song as memorable.
It isn’t fair to compare Omegaphilia with the benchmarks of the genre, but if black metal were to be properly evaluated for lasting value and continued relevance, bands must envision doing greater things than writing music that passes as okay, unable of reaching far into the cosmos.
I suppose I’ve written about too many second wave tribute albums that lacked similar quality and relevance, and I would hasten to say that Merrimack does not do a bad job on Omegaphilia. But neither is it their best effort, nor is it the best approach the band employs. Had Merrimack chosen to employ some catchier songwriting and simpler structure without playing obscure riffs that blur into each other, the band would have been wiser to. Instead, the band sound largely unoriginal and sameish on Omegaphilia. It’s my least-liked Merrimack album, and for some stretches I’ve been a fan of theirs.
I would do wise for my love of the band to stop here, but I’d like to make note that the band’s very turbulent tenure is largely due to line-up changes that the band has had to endure althroughout their history. Grey Rigorism was written to try a new approach for the band’s continued vitality to create music, and I personally loved that decision. However, the many people to dispute it have been largely wrong for thinking that the band return to their former style. Grey Rigorism had imagination, and was largely enjoyable. When Of Entropy and Life Denial fans demanded the band return to a similar approach they might have gotten their way, at the band’s expense. The Acausal Mass still got some positive reviews, but Omegaphilia strays into even more obscure songwriting tendencies that lack of easily-enjoyable quality. If anything, I’d like fans of the band to arrive at their own conclusions, but I’d like to stress that I still believe the band can write memorable music. Simpler song structure is akin to Ernest Hemingway’s approach to writing – the catchier the better for second wave black metal. If Merrimack realizes this and reimagines the great flurry of transcendent second wave albums, then write songs that fans will remember for eons of years, the skies are the limit.