Camera Obscura – Sputnik Music

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Ordo Draconis “Camera Obscura part 1 & 2”

This is something I’ve been procrastinating on for a long while now. First and foremost, I was unsure of how to classify such an album. I mean, at its core, it’s deeply rooted in Black Metal, but it sounds nothing like anything in the genre. It’s avant-garde, in the truest sense of the word. To me, it’s a lot like Arcturus, though they sound nothing alike. Due to the sheer diversity of this album, I am classifying it as Metal, though it can, I suppose, be considered “post Black-Metal”, regardless of how silly that may sound.

Now, I’ll point out this is a double album, though the first is a concept and the second is not. I will be reviewing the first album, though the same basic description of the sound applies to the second.

Describing the sound, or sounds, found on this album is not easy. To go about explaining it, I’ll do a quick run through of some of the tracks, though don’t get confused, this is not a track by track.

Ordo Draconis

* Rahab – Guitar
* Bob Kooger (1337_Misanthrope)
* Mir-h iD
* BM (Berry)
* Tyrann – Vocals
* Marco de Groot – drums

The sound of the album is hard to pin down. The first track, [Espionage], starts off with a very jazzy passage, and slowly builds into a Mr.Bungle Goodbye Sober Day type of deal. The vocals go from a clean jazzy tone to an almost robotic sounding voice. The next track, Mock Trial, starts off very Arcturus like only to go into a very Emperor style passage, which is one of the more black metal influenced parts on the album. After that, it turns very classical, with very tasteful choir and piano usage, only to turn to a very odd, almost circus-like sounding breakdown of sorts. It may sound odd, and I suppose it is, but somehow it works, it sounds totally natural. As the oddity continues, you’ll notice the choir is still found –albeit faintly, in the background– harmonizing. It then goes into chanting of sorts, only to find its way back to the Emperor influenced passage, only this time with added brass sections, and as that ends, the piano rejoins and the vocalist begins to go from shrieking to talking, “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth!”, only to be once again rejoined by choirs, finally ending in a foreign language spoken word passage from Vondel’s Lucifer. As you can see in the first two tracks, this band is all over the place, yet somehow manages to function as a cohesive unit. You’ve got the classical influences, and they actually sound classical. There are symphonic passages, but it is incomparable to symphonic metal, so drop the Dummy Burger assumptions now.

As you’ll notice, certain tracks are riddled parenthesis. Typically, they are the interludes, though there is one exception; [Vesper X]. Somehow, [Vesper X] manages to come off as epic though it clocks in at less than 4 minutes. It perhaps has to do with the grandiose scale of the song, as it’s riddled with not only choirs, but Gregorian style chanting. For most its entirety, the song is limited to a choir and some chanting, until 1:33 when drums, bass and keyboard kick in. This, I feel, is how the song gains momentum, until finally breaking-down with what sounds like violin, guitar and keyboard, all the while being accompanied by the familiar sound of the Gregorian chanting and choir.

Neuron Gutter, Neutron Star, is the most grandiloquent track of all at 10:35 minutes long. The drums are complicated, tricky and fast, and as they carry along the shrieked vocals and wacky intergalactic sounding keyboard. Of course, this doesn’t carry on long enough to go stagnant, and as always the band keeps you guessing. The song then turns into a more death influenced sound, only to turn into a cacophony of cymbals and electronic drumming, right before the Hammond organ kicks in. The organ fades out and the violin kicks in, it’s somewhat reminiscent old time films (let’s say 20s/30s), though I’m not exactly sure why. As the violin fade out, a breakdown kicks in, and oddly enough it’s a fairly traditional, yet perfectly executed, breakdown. The song basically fluctuates between black metal, violins, and classical tomfoolery, consistently keeping the listener guessing and never staying on one thing long enough to bore you, yet staying just long enough to make it listenable.

As you can see, the sound is seemingly all over the place yet it’s never too much. They’ve managed to construct a sound of their own, which is more or less a bunch of different sounds coming together to get their ideas across. From the violins and classically tinged piano, to traditional black metal, to wacky keyboards and organs to jazzy interludes and acoustic breaks, all accompanied by sometimes spoken, sometimes shrieked lead vocals, the band manages to keep the listener amazed all the way through. Oh, and the production is stellar.

How are you fallen from Heaven,
Lucifer, son of dawn?

As I said, disc one is a concept album, based on the Son of Dawn (which is based on Joost van den Vondel’s Lucifer). The way it is displayed is, well, weird. Often times, the lyrics play out like a cryptic conversation, though the more you read them the more sense it makes. Throughout the lyrics, ‘characters’ from Paradise Lost and Lucifer and the like will deliver soliloquies of sort. The lyrics also contain direct biblical passages, such as a part from Isaiah 14: 12-22, as well as Dutch passages from Vondel’s Lucifer.

To conclude, though it seems I’ve barely scratched the surface, the album is a portentous though never overbearingly pretentious take on a nearly 500 year old story. They border on insanity at times, but always bring themselves back before going overboard. This is definitely weird stuff; though never so weird you can’t sit down and enjoy it. Imagine if you took Mr. Bungle, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Emperor, Arcturus, Bal-Sagoth and Carnival in Coal, tossed them in a blender and let it go for a few days. It’s very complicated and I’ve hard a hell of a time trying to review it.

Tyler Munro.