Onirik- Casket Dream Veneration

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Portuguese black metal band Onirik has been releasing material since 2002, with Gonius Rex handling all of the instrumental and vocal work himself. Earlier efforts were much rawer recordings that channeled elements of the second-wave style and a thicker atmosphere created by melodic leads that swirled around the buzzing tonality. Despite the rough around the edges feel there was plenty to like about the hypnotic and dark nature of Onirik’s material, particular on efforts like 2009’s After Centuries of Silence. Casket Dream Veneration is Rex’s first new release since that album and in the six years that have passed the project has gone through a significant shift in sound. Two session members have been brought in on bass and drums, and the rawer second-wave style has given way to a cleaner tonality that’s drenched in darkness and even more hypnotic before. It may seem like a drastically different approach initially, but those that explore this record in depth will find that Onirik has amplified the best elements of its past material and the results are worth paying attention to.

Casket Dream Veneration may have traded in some of the abrasiveness of previous releases for some added clarity, but that doesn’t mean that the project has lost any of its edge. Rather than focusing solely on the noise level, this time around the swirling melodic leads that threatened to get swallowed up are in the spotlight and create dense layers of atmosphere that often feel like they’re going to completely overwhelm and suffocate the listener. The shift towards slower tempos amplifies this, as the slower pounding of the drums and expansive nature of the guitar and bass riffs create an effect that is hypnotic but unsettling at the same time. Onirik’s capable of putting you into a dreamlike state, albeit one where the dreams skew towards that of darkness and eternal hellfire. It’s an approach that I think pushes Gonius Rex’s ideas to the next level, as his previous releases have had this same level of swirling instrumentation and chilling tonality that got under your skin but the writing is stronger than ever and each song has something just a little bit different to capture your attention. My only complaint is that even with the increased clarity of the production it does feel like there could still be just a bit more separation between the guitar leads and the rest of the instrumentals, as I get the impression that the atmosphere could be even thicker if this were to happen. But that’s not an issue that will derail the experience, as each of the eight tracks is capable of casting a spell on you with its murkier, ritual like approach to black metal.

The vocals have gone through a fairly significant change in style on Casket Dream Veneration as well, with Gonius Rex going for a combination of clean pitches that have a chanted/choral feel and the raspier screaming that previous Onirik albums showcased. The mixture of the these two vocal ranges is what first caught my attention, as the two complement each other extremely well and even when Rex has switched over entirely to the cleaner tones there is still an ominous, sinister feel emanating from the performance. There has been an emphasis towards putting the vocals front and center on the recording, and as a result the singing and chanting hangs over the instrumentation with a ghostly, ethereal presence before switching over to the much more abrasive and in your face screaming. It’s the kind of performance that’s fully in sync with the instrumentation, and Gonius Rex’s harsh and clean pitches often seems like an extension of the overall sound which increases the atmosphere that much more.

Onirik may have shifted towards a cleaner overall sound, but the swirling melodic leads that were capable of putting listeners into a dark, hypnotic trance have been amplified with this change in sound. This is the type of black metal that takes a slower, ritualistic approach as it explores twisting and unsettling instrumentation, and as a result it did take me a few times through before Casket Dream Veneration fully clicked. But once it did, Gonius Rex’s latest effort left a lasting impression and it’s clear that his devotion to this sound and the process behind it is more focused than ever before and the resulting effort stands above so many of the other one-man endeavors out there.

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