I spend a lot of my free time shouting at random passersby that atmoblack is an artistically bankrupt genre, but in all seriousness, I say that with obvious hyperbolic facetiousness. Of course, the entire genre doesn’t suck; that’d be really dumb of me to say. In fact, some of my favorite albums from their respective eras hail from this scene (particularly the first Altar of Plagues album and most anything Wolves in the Throne Room does). Black metal, in general, is an incredibly fluid genre that’s easily mixed with pretty much any outside influence with at least theoretically favorable results. The overtly atmospheric school of thought doesn’t necessarily implicate instant suckage, but it definitely has the worst signal-to-noise ratio based on how incredibly easy it is to do. Write two melodies, stretch them out for 10+ minutes, make the vocals distant, add some subtle swelling synths as an optional spice, rinse and repeat. The best bands in the style utilize this same formula to an extent, but they tend to have a knack for emotion or evocative atmosphere that keeps the music from being as boring as it is on paper. And that’s where Darchon fails because this is exactly the kind of threadbare formulaic nonsense that has been flooding the scene for years.
I could’ve guessed this was a one-man project based off one listen because a band with many different members with different ideas likely wouldn’t have ever produced something quite so static. Darchon has existed since 2009, but in those ten years, I don’t think he’s learned a single new thing beyond ripping off Hvis lyset tar oss. From the stripped-down and simplistic riffs to the swelling synth chords, every single element of Oionos seems to have been chosen with the express purpose of reminding the listener of that classic (and much better) 1994 opus. Hell, it’s even structured the same, with three long black metal songs and closing on an ambient piece. It’s so blatant it’s borderline plagiarism.
The main difference between the two pieces is that Varg’s biggest talent was turning repetition into something hypnotic and entrancing, while Darchon is just repetitive for the sake of it. Burzum could jam on two riffs for nearly twenty minutes and make it sound like a peyote soaked nightmare through the Stygian Abyss, whereas Darchon just jams on two riffs for twenty minutes and makes you beg for merciful death because you just want something, anything else to happen. Oionos is ultra-green, mega-basic Atmoblack for Dummies, babby’s first black metal band. Imagine for a second that you’re a really big fan of Slayer, and you want to start a group paying homage to your heroes. So you learn how to do palm mutes and then immediately fuck off to go writing songs. You didn’t learn anything else, just palm mutes. That’s basically the same thing this guy did. It feels like he learned how to do tremolo riffs and then immediately wrote an album based entirely on entry-level tremolo riffs and blast beats and then stretched the songs to marathon lengths. There’s no hypnotic cosmic horror; there’s no filthy grime, no nihilistic dreariness, no satanic misanthropy, no nothing. It’s just uninspiring lo-fi tremolo riffs with distant screechy vocals, and that’s it. It’s drab and emotionless, and that’s all there is to it.