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Let it be known that Norwegian symfo metallers Dimmu Borgir and their long-time contractor Nuclear Blast Records are, were, and never will be above completely and utterly milking their fanbase for every penny they’re worth. Thus we have the “Council Of Wolves and Snakes” EP, another prelude to the band’s much protracted “Eonian” epos, their first in eight years. From the looks of it it's an easy paycheck for everyone involved. They couldn’t even be bothered to allocate actual artwork for this soon-to-be redundant excuse of an extended play. If “Council Of Wolves and Snakes” is anything to go by, better prepare for the worst with “Eonian”.

There’s a grand total of exactly one new song here and the remaining five tracks, live and otherwise, have been culled from various EPs and region-exclusive album bonus tracks. In other words, band and label are charging fans for material already released and that some probably already own. Thus it offers no additional value to the single it appears on. The EP opens with a cover of ‘Nocturnal Fear’ from Swiss proto-metal combo Celtic Frost, a track that originally appeared on the 1996 “Devil’s Path” EP. It is followed by ‘Masses For the New Messiah’, an exclusive Japanese bonus track on 1999’s “Spiritual Black Dimensions”. ‘D.M.D.R. (Dead Men Don't Rape)’ is a G.G.F.H. cover that was a bonus track to Shagrath’s Mask version limited edition of 2010’s “Abrahadabra”. ‘Chaos Without Prophecy’ and the live rendition of “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant” staple ‘In Death’s Embrace' both originally appeared on the 1998 EP “Godless Savage Garden” which in itself functioned as a precursor to the earlier mentioned “Spiritual Black Dimensions”. Dimmu Borgir’s greed knows no bounds and once “Eonian” hits shelves this EP will be rendered null and void, but that won’t stop them from robbing fans blind.

Which brings up to the actual new content, a single track at that, of this EP. It seems Dimmu Borgir is genuinely trying to expand their sound here. Whether or not you come to Dimmu Borgir for what they’re attempting here is another thing entirely. ‘Council Of Wolves and Snakes’ is... something, although you’ll be hardpressed to gauge exactly what they were attempting here. ‘Council Of Wolves and Snakes’ starts with some winding psychedelic guitar noodling that wouldn’t feel out of place on one of those 70s occult rock revivalist records from Svart Records that came in response to Pentagram reforming in 2008. A vague Middle Eastern melody is introduced, but nothing is ever done with it. The prerequisite heavier section sets in and the pre-chorus comes replete with ethnic chants and tribal percussion straight out of “The Cross Of Changes” from German new age-world music project Enigma. The heavier riff is duly returned upon before giving way to an extended soft clean guitar part with string sections and choral backing during the choruses. Since this is supposed to be Dimmu Borgir Shagrath’s increasingly studio processed vocals include whispers and narration next to his exhausted croaks. For this band’s standards (lowly as they are) this borders on a trudging doom-like dirge, but everything stays safely in the pop-formatted power metal formula of Nightwish.

The question, of course, is: is this what people come to Dimmu Borgir for? The earlier “Interdimensional Summit” EP was a lot of things, but it wasn’t good. To their credit, this song as well as the earlier released one do sound very different from anything and everything the band has done prior to “Abrahadabra”. Dimmu Borgir these days sounds strangely life-affirming, uplifting, and triumphant in ways usually reserved for Scandinavian and Japanese power – and neoclassical metal. There isn’t enough material present to justify the +5 minute lenght (there’s barely enough content for the standard 3 minutes) and, as per tradition with this band, they artificially draw out what little there is of the actual song. Apparently this song was important enough to warrant a music video. Make of that what you will...

Granted everything is pristinely produced, a bit too clean altogether perhaps. Gone are the days when this band played atmospheric folk metal, romantic dark metal, keyboard-oriented groove and industrial metal. These days Dimmu Borgir is a thinly-veiled power metal act with only a veneer of what they once were. Perhaps Shagrath, Silly-Nose and Galder are growing mellow and soft in their old age? Who knows... or cares at this point? “Council Of Wolves and Snakes” is very much a continuation of the path the band embarked on with “Abrahadabra”. It remains to be seen whether or not the fans will follow them along this path. Time will tell whether “Eonian” was worth the near-decade long hiatus from the studio.

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“Gods Forgotten Orbit”, the debut of German atmospheric metal combo Odetosun, is a fresh take on a subgenre that was last popular in the 1990s. Featuring prominent bass guitar licks, and floating melodies “Gods Forgotten Orbit” is part of a minor resurgence of a sound that the likes of Alastis and Tiamat pioneered during the 90s. Odetosun is however a good deal heavier, and technical in its playing compared to the earlier bands. In many ways Odetosun is a metal equivalent of the David Gilmour-fronted Pink Floyd.

Odetosun was formed in Ausburg, Germany in 2008 as the Viking metal band Oden’s Raven, who released a solitary album before changing names and musical direction in 2012. The band consists of siblings Benny Stuchly (electronic/acoustic guitar, bass guitar, synthesizer), Luke Stuchly (vocals), along with Oden’s Raven alumnus Gunther Rehmer (drums). The band is part of a relatively new movement of atmospheric metal bands that draw inspiration from 1970s UK psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd. Like the stylistically similar Nümph this band also focuses on serene atmosphere over brutality.

10362822_845045768849442_3321602764682612566_oThe band’s lyrics deal with cosmic themes, and astral phenomena. When interpreting this celestial imagery on a metaphorical level the lyrics are incredibly profound and meaningful. ‘Cracking the Shell Of Calypso’ is about one of the Nereids (sea nymphs) mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey in Greek mythology, or alternatively about the well known planetary sattelite moon of the planet Saturn. Metaphorically, it is about the finding of knowledge. ‘Veil Of Leviathan’ details the Kundalini, an indwelling spiritual energy, usually represented as either a goddess or a sleeping serpent, that must be awakened for the seeker of truth to reach divine union. The Leviathan in the title refers to the celestial dragon, as in the constellation of Draco, that holds of the pearl of wisdom in its jaw. The dragon must be slain in order to reach enlightenment. ‘Journey to Gliese’ is an instrumental track about Gliese, the triple-star system in the constellation of Libra.

‘Cracking the Shell Of Calypse’ opens with the band’s signature pumping bass guitar. The track has amazing guitar work that is melodic, floating and entirely death metal. ‘Veil Of Leviathan’ has a swirling guitar riff and is the most conventionally death metal track of the record. While more straightforward in its first half, the second half proves the song’s true strenght as it fuses atmosphere with battering riffing. ‘Eclipse Chaser’ is in the vein of the opening track again. The processed vocals are redeemed by the fragile acoustic guitar and keyboard segment that concludes the song. ‘Journey to Gliese’ is a compelling atmospheric instrumental song that arrives just at the right time in the middle of the record. ‘The Swarming Infinity’ concludes with an extended David Gilmour alike solo. Among the standout tracks of the record are ‘Cracking the Shell Of Calypso’, ‘Eclipse Chaser’, the entirely instrumental ‘Journey to Gliese’ and ‘The Swarming Infinity’. The tasteful vocoder parts in the title track, and its extended soaring David Gilmour guitar solo push the album towards an atmospheric/emotive apex in its closing.

Opposite of its contemporaries the bass guitar is the lead instrument for Odetosun’s music, and the guitars mostly function as rhythmic support except when there’s a lead/solo section. While Odetosun is death metal in form it functions in the same as the David Gilmour fronted Pink Floyd albums. Understandably the trio is at its best when it is at its most atmospheric, and least conventionally death metal. In fact the least impressive aspect of Odetosun is its death metal, and the trio would be better off fully embracing its technical – and atmospheric inclinations on future material. The band’s strongest material resembles Pink Floyd’s “The Division Bell” in various ways. As with its British inspirations there’s a sense of sadness that looms over “Gods Forgotten Orbit”. ‘Journey to Gliese’ is Odetosun’s equivalent to Pink Floyd’s ‘Marooned’ or ‘One Of These Days’. All songs were written by multi-instrumentalist and producer Benny Stuchly,  with exception of ‘Eclipse Chaser‘ that was co-written with Peter Schmid.

The album was recorded in varous sessions between August 2012 and March 2013 in the band’s homestudio. Multi-instrumentalist and main creative force Benny Stuchly was responsible for producing and engineering. Compared to label sanctioned releases there’s a sense of openness to the production work on “Gods Forgotten Orbit”. The prominence of the bass guitar, along with the light washes of synthesizer and acoustic guitar sections allow for a very organic, and natural production. The record is neither under- or overproduced, its a delicate balance that gives each instrument its required space without compromising the overall quality of the mix. Unlike a lot of modern releases the production isn’t brickwalled, or compressed sounding at any point. The artwork Thomas Hoechstaedter fits with the trio’s celestial and mythological concepts.

With the death metal genre growing more stale,  oversaturated and caricatural each year it is heartening to hear bands like Odetosun, who take the genre as a basis to branch out into territory one doesn’t usually associate with the genre. “Gods Forgotten Orbit” is at its strongest when it abandons the death metal foundation for something altogether more breezy and atmospheric. Odetosun is part of a number of European bands reinvigorating the atmospheric subgenre again after a decade. Hopefully we’ll hear more from Odetosun in the nearby future as the direction on, and various aspects of “Gods Forgotten Orbit” beg to be more thoroughly explored. Germany has always had a knack of quirky death metal, and Odetosun and its debut album is no different in that regard.