Original concepts often lead to original execution, either out of the necessity to relay new information with a new combination of tools or because thinking outside the bounds of normalcy encourages a new level of creative engagement. There is certainly something to be said for this second one; it’s not rare to see albums of a novel conceptual nature end up sounding somewhat extraordinary as well. Hell, some artists even make careers out of this – The Dear Hunter‘s episodic Act series of albums is, rather unconventionally, set in the era just following the first World War, and brings in many elements of musical theater, lounge, and big band to add some temporally appropriate weight, and rap trio clipping. have made quite a name for themselves out of eschewing genre trends, most recently exploring the intersection of sci-fi dark ambient, musique concrete, and hip-hop on their newest album, Splendor and Misery.
However, this isn’t always the case, and the new album from black metal band Misanthropia, titled Omerta, is a time where an innovative setting barely finds its way into the music, if at all. As can be gleaned from the name by one somewhat familiar with Italian crime syndicates (or has at least seen The Godfather recently enough to remember a somewhat-obscure detail), Misanthropia’s lyrical and mental focus here is the grimy world of the Mafia. It’s a cool idea, and certainly one that hasn’t been explored much, if at all, in extreme metal, but any onus placed upon the music to communicate this theme is, unfortunately, misguided.
Omerta isn’t a bad album at all, it’s just a very, very standard one. No songs stand out as particularly strong or communicate any sort of deviation from the rote, paint-by-numbers sound of black metal as it’s practiced here. Every element is here, exactly how it should be – if one thing is clearly communicated, it’s that Misanthropia have studied their craft carefully – but trying to feel any sort of emotion in response to swelling strings over huge walls of tremolo-picked guitars and blast beats or conjure up some energy to headbang along with some icy, crunchy black metal riffing is an exercise in futility, because this album just doesn’t bring anything to the table that other albums in the genre haven’t done better, and it doesn’t try to approach them any differently.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to judge an album like this fairly: there’s no major flaw to be found in Omerta, but nor is there any real excitement or even a reason to care about this album. Misanthropia have put all the pieces in place in the right order, and judging by the concept, they’ve clearly got an idea of just what they need to do to take their music to the next level. This is certainly a band worth keeping an eye on in the future – if they can take their conceptual ability to break from tradition and apply it to their music, this band could be a huge force in the black metal scene in the years to come. But right now, Misanthropia isn’t quite out of their gestation period. Omerta sits so comfortably into the black metal mold that it’s easy to pass over, and rightfully so.
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Omerta is out now through Via Nocturna records. You can purchase the album here, on the label’s bandcamp.