Ophidian Forest is an interesting commodity. Specializing in their own self-described brand of “chaotic Pagan black metal,” the members of the band are spread across three countries and haven’t even physically met each other yet. Through such magical technologies as the interwebs and traditional postal services, Ophidian Forest was able to record their 2008 debut REDBAD, which was initially released with extremely limited distribution. Fast forward a couple of years and the band has repackaged and re-released that debut in the hopes of garnering some additional exposure for their efforts. Though the conceptual premise behind REDBAD is actually pretty interesting (more on that later), the actual musical execution of the concept leaves much to be desired.
I’m assuming that at some point while REDBAD’s master tapes were being shipped across various continents that a DHL driver somewhere hit a pothole and spilled his jumbo gulp of Mountain Dew on them, thus ruining the sound quality on those tapes. Again, I’m assuming that, because the 66:06 minutes (get it, 666?) of migraine inducing white noise couldn’t possibly be what the band intended REDBAD to sound like. In an attempt to portray as raw and primal a sound as they could possibly summon, the obnoxiously overpowering guitar fuzz completely suppresses any semblance of songwriting or musical performance throughout each of nine songs on the disc. It’s hard to detail any of the tunes on their own merit, because once all of the instruments get going, the songs turn into unintelligible mush. The scant riffs that you can make out sound like they could have some promise, but you’ll lose interest long before finding out.
The most interesting thing about the album actually has nothing to do with the music itself. If you read the song title “Thor Rides over Dokkum” quickly, it kind of looks like “Thor Rides over Dokken.” That made me smile, thinking of the Marvel comics version of the Norse God laying down the hammer to Don Dokken.
Redbad himself was a real figure in history. A controversial Frisian (modern day Netherlands and northern Germany) king during the 8th century, Redbad rejected Christian baptism in favor of retaining his Pagan belief system, which was a big deal for the time. The subject is ripe for the metal treatment; it’s just too bad that the poor guy got this kind of treatment. There’s a fine line between sounding raw and sounding sloppy, and REDBAD is unfortunately an example of the latter. The lack of a proper mix (or concern about your audience enjoying what they’re listening to) doesn’t make you more kvlt than your neighbor; it makes your neighbor seem more interesting by default. On a positive note, Ophidian Forest is readying the release of their next album and the new songs streaming on their Myspace page sound exponentially better than anything you’ll find on REDBAD. You’re better off waiting to hear what the band has up their sleeve than trying to endure this.
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