Dominion of Misery‘s intro track, appropriately entitled “Intro“, is rather minimal and eerie until a haunting organ line kicks in, the execution somewhat reminiscent of Spawn of Possession‘s “Inception” off of 2006 record Noctambulant. The similarities don’t end there — for first-time listeners, both tracks are fairly inoffensive past their dark overall tone, and both give little to no hints whatsoever of the chaos that is to ensue. Instead, the only difference is in the nature of the chaos that is to follow: whereas Spawn’s sound is all about counterpoint-based technicality, Omnihility‘s modus operandi is to work entirely at relentless, breakneck speeds, pounding the listener’s head to a pulp with an onslaught of riffs.
Opener “Psychotic Annihilation” immediately plunges the listener onto a monstrous train straight to hell, with abounding tremolo picked riffs stacked atop a chaotic percussion section. Let’s get the elephant out of the room before we go any further — with regards to the faster aspects of Omnihility’s sound, comparisons to Origin are inevitable, given that the Kansas outfit’s work rightfully remains the gold standard when it comes to this style of positively unrelenting death metal. But, to Omnihility’s credit, the Oregon four-piece come pretty damn close to that standard, and definitely more so than most bands have in the past. Tracks such as “Dementia Praecox” and “Reflections in Blood” feature riffs that are almost ridiculous in the speed they work up to, but therein lies a lot of the appeal of the album; it is happy to repeatedly punch the listener right in the gut several times, and just when one thinks a given track is about to slow down for good, it somehow picks up with twice the speed. Yes, this can make for an exhausting listen to some, but there’s no denying it’s fun having a record keep you on your toes songwriting-wise.
Riffs at breakneck speeds aside, a particular improvement over the band’s previous effort, 2014’s Deathscapes of the Subconscious, is the noticeably greater inclusion of dynamics in their sound. “Immaculate Deception”, easily an album highlight, starts with a crushing riff at a much slower tempo before everything gains traction and makes way for some fantastic guitar work built on a surprisingly catchy progression. “Within Shadows” also comes as a bit of a surprise, trading in the almost constant brutality for a piano/acoustic guitar duet; however, its sudden appearance (and slightly cheesy synthesized instrumentation) almost works to the album’s detriment in a sense, since it’s so radically different from everything that both comes after and precedes it. Even still, it’s an admirable effort to include some breathing room in the midst of an album as heavy as this.
Dominion of Misery‘s main weak point, however, lies within its production. While not egregiously bad enough to make listening to it impossible, it’s definitely somewhat tiring to listen to the album all the way through. The guitars are a little louder than would perhaps best suit an album with riffs such as these, and as a consequence the bass is somewhat buried in the mix. Yet this is nowhere near as big as problem as the drum sound, which veers between being somewhat serviceable to straight up bad. During the faster parts in particular, the snare sounds less and less like a snare and more like a frying pan, making moments like the intro of “Psychotic Annihilation” as well as the most of “Parasitic Existence” almost too absurd to actually eke any enjoyment out of. It’s a shame, because the faster parts of the album are otherwise extremely well executed from a songwriting perspective, and it’s frustrating to have an obvious flaw such as this knock the listening experience down several pegs. The other, less glaring problem lies with the fact that side B of the album does not necessarily feel as dynamic as the first half riff-wise, though this is remedied in part by the stellar instrumental closing track, which breathes enough life back into the record that it ends on a fairly high note.
Dominion of Misery is ultimately a strong record overall, and a definite improvement over its predecessor in several ways, but the production flaws unfortunately prevent it from being the excellent record it could have been. Even still, it remains more than serviceable for those requiring a quick and largely unadulterated death metal fix, while adding on a few (but not too many) pleasant surprises along the way. Ultimately, it remains to be seen whether Omnihility can fully harness their clear songwriting potential and combine it with a production job that truly does their capabilities justice.