Forever burning inside hell’s domain.
Words by Sean Wright (@stainedglassrevelation):
In Dante Aligheri’s The Divine Comedy, the City of Dis encompasses the sixth through the ninth circle of hell. Moated by the river of Styx and guarded by the fallen angels, the City of Dis is essentially the geographical map-out of any city that we know of in the real world, leading up to this triple-walled architectural feature including towers, gates, walls, ramparts, bridges, and moats. It’s basically the antithesis of the heavenly city above. Leading up to this capital of suffering, we encounter the unbaptized and then those who sinned by self-indulgence—the lustful, the gluttons, the misers and spendthrifts—and then at the outskirts of the red-hot walls of the City of Dis are the wrathful and those of ill-will. Inside the walls that fortify the damned are heretics that previously disbelieved in immortality, imprisoned in red hot tombs. Past that, there are three rings of those who were violent—to others, to themselves (suicides), or to God (blasphemers). In yet deeper gulfs within the decaying city of Dis are the last two circles, of frauds and corruptors, and finally the traitors. Also eternally punished within Dis are those whose lives were marked by active-willed and obdurate, rather than venial sins: murderers, suicides, usurers, Simoniacs, false prophets, sodomites, panderers, seducers, flatterers, hypocrites, thieves, fraudulent advisors, sowers of discord, falsifiers, and traitors. Before we pass the gates to examine this world of suffering without end, we must be granted access by the two musicians in Our Place Of Worship Is Silence. Fortunately for the listener, access will always be granted.
Formed in Los Angeles, California in 2014, OPOWIS have clawed their way slowly but surely into the limelight while making both friends and enemies. One of their first big name supporters was Wrest (aka Jef Whitehead) of Leviathan/Lurker Of Chalice/Twilight, who happened to work his magic and create the most beast-as-shit band logo for OPOWIS. That logo alone of hooded faceless priests was enough to make me want to check the band out. I didn’t know what to expect except something worthy of Wrest’s stamp of approval. What I got was a fucking violent amalgamation of slamming death metal akin to Suffocation and Devourment, back-breaking chugging breakdowns similar to Xibalba and Nails with black metal undertones like that of Clandestine Blaze and Deathspell Omega, and essentially a level of barbarism that is only seen in bands like Revenge and Blasphemy. The band's hellish take wasn’t something that was easily copied or cloned at the time. Bands like Gatecreeper and Blood Incantation, who were also gaining major trackage, were in their own world of old-school worship while OPOWIS was exactly where they needed to be at the time in terms of sound, influences, sound production, and not relying on rehashing of what came before. That was in 2015 with their MMXV demo. 5 years and 3 albums later, OPOWIS have finely tuned their sound into the upcoming Disavowed And Left Hopeless.
So where do we see the band's ever constant churning cauldron of boiling water to those cast down into the depths? I’ll be the first to say that it’s a massive step-up from 2018’s With Inexorable Suffering in terms of sound production. It’s a lot clearer and not as muddled down with the bass tone. Vocalist/guitarist/bassist Eric Netto’s mixture of guitars and bass is more well-balanced. Vocal wise between Netto and drummer Tim, both are more relaxed in getting their point across as opposed to what seemed like With Inexorable Suffering was trying to out-do/better perform 2016’s The Embodiment Of Hate. That being said, that’s not a bad thing. It’s good for motivational purposes, but now that we are here in 2021, OPOWIS by now know how to get their point across. Tim’s drums are better mixed as well and don’t sound as flat. Overall sound production is a major step up and couldn’t have been done without the help and touches of Erol Ulug (Teeth). Album artwork speaking, they outdid their last one as well. Their last album featured a crazy-as-shit piece by Jef Whitehead and I’ll be the first to admit it’s kinda hard to top anything Whitehead does in terms of album covers. Tim and Eric rolled the dice and went with Jon Zig (Deeds Of Flesh, Disgorge, Defeated Sanity) who further painted and added fresh colors to the portrait of the inferno that OPOWIS dwell in.
Song highlights include the opening instrumental, The Conspiracy Against Cruelty, their first single/title track, Disavowed & Left Hopeless, the blackened Mdłości II, and the soul-crushing and sorrowful, The Scourge. Even with that said, the other 3 songs aren’t exactly what I would call filler at all, just bridges waiting to be burned in between the highlights of the hellish world of OPOWIS. There is enough hellfire and brimstone that both Tim and Eric have to strike down to cast all sinners and non-believers. I know that OPOWIS have generated enough praise and condemnation in the underground from various angles. Well, in the last few years, if you haven’t made any enemies, then you’re not doing anything worthwhile with your time. Thankfully, OPOWIS have carefully constructed not only their time but the listener’s as well in crafting some of the most ruthless shit as far as extreme music goes. Burn in Hell, motherfuckers!
Disavowed, and Left Hopeless arrives August 27th via Translation Loss. Order it HERE.