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Track Premiere: Ophidian Forest – “Nerthus”

‘Ophidian’ is one of those words I see all the time in black metal song or album titles, but I’ve never taken the time to look up what it means. Apparently, Ophidia is a classification of scaled reptiles including modern snakes.

So now we all know. Come for the track premiere, stay for the vocabulary lesson.

Ophidian Forest is an avant-garde pagan/black metal trio with members in San Francisco, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and the Netherlands. None of whom have ever actually met, which isn’t necessarily all that unusual in this age of collaboration via the Internet. The difference, though, is that I’m not sure any of those other web-based bands are quite as…idiosyncratic as Obsidian Forest.

Actually, scratch that – calling Ophidian Forest ‘idiosyncratic’ is an understatement. Their fourth long-player votIVe is a fucking weird album – easily one of the strangest I’ve ever heard under that’s been placed under the vast umbrella that is black metal. Or, more appropriately, under the canopy of “a forest whose trees and vegetation are so thick and tangled that they resemble a vast miasma of snakes,” as they describes themselves in the promotional materials. In fact, not even a familiarity with drummer Otrebor’s main project–the one-man, hammered dulcimer ‘green metal’ band Botanist–is really very ample preparation for what’s in store when you hit play on the album.

On votIVe, Otrebor and keyboardist/vocalist Amalgamoth are joined by new member dcrf from Book of Sand on guitar/bass/misc. other instruments, and the trio conjure up a septet of mystical hymns to the ancient Goddesses of the Netherlands that have a foundation in raw black metal, but also incorporate elements of folk, free jazz, and psychedelia. The keyboards often dominate, and on songs like “Nehalennia” and “Vagdavercustis” remind me more than a little of something Tony Banks would have come up with in the early, Peter Genesis-fronted days of Genesis.

Yeah…how’s that for some cognitive dissonance? Imagine Gabriel-era Genesis as a black metal band. You know, “Return of the Giant Hogweed” does basically have an ecological theme to the lyrics…

We’re premiering “Nerthus,” the opening track on votIVe, here today at the Vault, and attempting to describe any of the myriad twists and turns the song takes during its nearly nine-minute run time would be a fool’s errand: raw black metal, darkwave, goth/post-punk, and an extended section near the end featuring what I swear has to either be a trumpet or the best fucking synth pad I’ve ever heard. The whole of the song, however, is much greater than the sum of any parts that I could isolate here, so here’s my advice: find a nice, quiet spot, do whatever you need to do to get yourself in the appropriately receptive state, and just let the song wash over you.

votIVe will be available on October 26 from code666 Records. Grab yourself a preorder here.

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