This album is long as hell. Now, I know that this is not a very surprising detail in metal, especially of a more progressive nature, but still. Maybe it’s just because I’ve lost touch with metal in the past couple years, but I have a lot of music in my library, and album runtimes seldom approach the 70 minute mark, let alone surpass it (inb4 Opeth). Seventy-four minutes is a good chunk of time to spend listening to an album that one is unfamiliar with belonging to a genre that can often be dangerously hit-or-miss. So, admittedly, I was skeptical when approaching this album, but after briefly sampling a few tracks, a small but noticeable amount of excitement blossomed within.
Omega Virus is an instrumental project belonging to Akeldama vocalist Connor Reibling. The Weeping Earth is Reibling’s first release under this guise, and at first listen, it sounds like a fairly standard djent record. One thing is very clear from the moment album opener “The Leviathan Prophecy” takes off, though: the production is fantastic. Whereas many modern prog bands offer up some truly headache-inducing drum sounds, the drums on The Weeping Earth, while quite heavy, are not too high in the mix and the guitars sound absolutely ideal for a progressive record, riffs gleaming with a sort of aural sparkle, chugs still heavy enough to make the listener long to smash their face into a wall. This impressively professional – or, dare I say it – nearly flawless production gives the album an immediate upper hand.
As mentioned, The Leviathan Prophecy, despite an impeccable sound job, is a rather typical slab of dee-jent, and frankly, Chameleon Facade does not exactly increase one’s hope that what they’re about to hear is exceptional.
Immediately after the final second of Chameleon Facade plays out, a rapid turnaround occurs, and this is where the involuntary grins will begin to appear. Explosive drum fills, rapid tremolo picking, precise blast beats? Definitely not what any listener would expect following the two solid-but-normal tracks that opened the album, but the intensity of Birth of the Alligator Breed is everything a progressive metal fan could possibly want in a song.
The Weeping Earth returns to a more simplistic, rhythmic, mid-paced style over the next few tracks, and after hearing the chaos of Birth of the Alligator Breed, this style – which is also showcased in the first couple tracks – makes much more sense. On a 70+ minute album like this, too much speedy technicality could likely end up being just too much to digest without countless listens, and the more simplistic, less diverse tracks help keep the pace varied in a way that allows the listener to pay attention without either being overwhelmed or losing focus on the music.
And for the rest of the album, things continue largely in this way. There are more rhythm-oriented songs and moments, such as the majority of Sloth in Descent, and there are also some less expected elements, such as the infectious, straight-up melodic death metal riff taking place a bit over five minutes into Sun of the Scorpion, which also just happens to be an album highlight – in a way, its diversity serves as a seven-minute summary of the album as a whole. Also present throughout the album are some decidedly atmospheric keyboard/synthesizers that bring fellow Tampa locals Ovid’s Withering to mind, which, to be honest, is unlikely to be a bad thing in anyone’s eyes. The record finally (finally) comes to a close with its longest cut: the 14-minute title track. It does seem to drag on to an extent, but it seems a fitting conclusion to the raging dj0ntfest that is The Weeping Earth.
When all is said and done, despite my pre-listen misgivings, there is little fault to be found on the debut release from Omega Virus. The primary issue with the record isn’t so much that its length needs to be cut down as the fact that its length absolutely could be cut down, because some of the more simplistic sections just aren’t that interesting, and man, there are a lot of ’em – listeners can’t really be faulted for their attention slipping from time to time. And on that same note, some of those slower moments definitely could use a boost in speed and diversity, such as that exhibited in Birth of the Alligator Breed. After hearing such a track, one is inclined to wonder why more similar moments aren’t spattered throughout the record, because they’d serve as some damn good hooks. Overall, however, The Weeping Earth is a joyous surprise. I truly had no expectation that such a long record of such a djenty nature would be so genuinely enjoyable, but there it is. Connor Reibling has unleashed one hell of a record upon the progressive metal scene and when this baby starts popping up on top-10 lists at the end of 2015, you surely won’t be counting me among the surprised.
Top Tracks: Birth of the Alligator Breed, Sun of the Scorpion
FFO: Meshuggah, (newer) Veil of Maya, Ovid’s Withering