No Omega – ‘Culture’

By James Lee

‘Blackened’ is a descriptor that has been bolted onto the front of pretty much every sub-genre of heavy music at some point. Blackened Death? Check. Blackened Grind? Yep. Blackened Hardcore? You betcha. The fusing of the sonic palate of Black Metal with other, not directly related forms of music is certainly not a new idea, though in recent years the areas into which that frosty Nordic influence has crept has been surprising to say the least. Most prevalent would be the burgeoning ‘Blackgaze’ movement, spearheaded by bands like Alcest and Deafheaven, however it appears that on their latest full length ‘Culture’, Swedish gloomsters No Omega have managed to craft an even less likely concoction – Blackened Screamo.

Opening with a barrage of thrashed-out minor chords and blastbeats, one could be forgiven for thinking that the album’s title track could end up being an exercise in pure black metal, until maybe halfway through, when the song breaks down into an altogether more melodic and conventionally ’emo’ movement that feels a little at odds with its caustic opening, though it still works somehow. It’s a combination that even 10 years ago might not have flown, but in the post-everything musical climate we live in today, No Omega manage to marry the two sounds together fairly convincingly, even if at points on the album it feels a little too stitched together and not entirely natural.

It’s clear on tracks like ‘Contortion’ that the band’s true heart lies in realm of post-hardcore, albeit in the bleakest form that genre could take. They sound most in control when they let their Envy and Touché Amoré influences shine through, with the walls of blasts feeling a little tacked on in places to provide extra intensity that, frankly, they don’t really need. The band’s sound and aesthetic are strong enough that this extra level of extremity feels superfluous, though credit where credit is due, when No Omega do step on the accelerator they do so with incredibly tight and focused musicianship. ‘Culture’ is nothing if not a very slickly put together record, with just enough grit and atmosphere so as to not sound too polished.

On paper, it’s difficult to say that No Omega do anything wrong on ‘Culture’ – it’s a dynamic record that manages to shift from moments of nail-biting savagery to swooning melody, all whilst retaining a singular bleak mood that hangs over the entire thing like a dense fog. Somehow, though, it never really gels the way it should. None of the songs are really memorable on their own, coming across merely as a sequence of parts and ideas that have been chopped up and put together without real thought about them making impact individually. Tracks like ‘Misgiving’ arrive and then just end without really doing anything to define themselves, and as such the album flies by in a bit of a blur without any moments really sticking. It’s a shame because No Omega have a great sound, and show flashes of true brilliance, however they’ll need to consider spending more time writing genuinely memorable songs if they want to enter the same kind of territory that their peers like Touché Amoré have broken into.

JAMES LEE

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