Smohalla/Omega Centauri - Tellur/Epitome | Review

Duplicate Records founded by Virus, Ved Buens Ende's Einar Sjursø is gradually becoming quite the bespoke haven for avant-garde escapades. Two of the Norwegian label’s protégés, Smohalla and Omega Centauri, have also been developing nicely over the past few years. For those unfamiliar, Smohalla is a French black metal duo (Slo, Camille) who have one full-length—2011’s ‘Résilience’—under their bullet belts, while Omega Centauri's two members—British multi-instrumentalist Tom Valleley and Belgian vocalist Svograth— practise black metal alchemy of the unorthodox and atmospheric persuasion, as heard on their promising debut 'Universum Infinitum' from last year. Both bands exude the ethos of the label in that they balance on the experimental axis of the darkest of genres, and they have joined forces to split wax for ‘Tellur/Epitome’.
When it comes to a split release, it can more often than not form a throwaway piece of promotion rather than a lasting piece of art that demands repeat plays. But for the one-in-ten split LP that actually succeeds because the music along with the sequencing and packaging is all of the highest quality (see: Barghest/False and Alaric/Atriarch), it can be become an indispensible aural document. Unfortunately, ‘Tellur / Epitome’ does not fall into the minority of greatness, but neither is it anywhere near being a complete failure: It is a curiosity that comes nicely packaged and holds some worthwhile tracks. The real problem with the split however, comes from the disparity in quality of each band’s input. The four songs that form Smohalla’s bizarre and bombastic take on black metal are so fascinating it leaves Omega Centauri sounding underwhelming and even meandering without purpose on 'Desuetude', with the overall production also packing less of punch. But even when you compare Omega Centauri’s three songs here—'Naissance' being the warped highlight and only saviour—to the songs from 'Universum Infinitum', they still come up short. This band has so much more ability than what it show us here, and finishing with 13-minutes of near silence says it all.
Smohalla on the other hand create wondrous noise; 'Sa Voix Transperce Nos Fronts' being an intoxicating treat: its ghostly synths encircling as the orchestral vocals and frenzied riff-swells disorientate. And this disorientation continues to enshroud the listener during the grandiose 'La Main d'Abel', the ambient 'Ô Déluge'—which sounds like Burzum, if Varg had being jamming Massive Attack and Portishead in his prison cell during his keyboard days, and the dissonant vortex of avant-black metal, 'Les Passagers du Vent'. These songs alone make ‘Tellur/Epitome’ worth revisiting and although Omega Centauri disappoint in comparison, both bands have so much potential to cause apoplexy that the future is theirs for the shattering.

Dean Brown

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Dean Brown is a metal scribe based in Ireland. He is currently a contributing editor to the North American cultural magazine Popmatters and he regularly throws words for a number of other reputable loud noise publications such as metal,,,, amongst others. He has a strong affinity for music that shakes souls and leaves debilitating tinnitus in its wake and such obsession has left him financially and medically crippled, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. Follow Dean on twitter @reus85