Okera - A Beautiful Dystopia
Reviewer: Rak Hiasat - 2012-08-11
Highlights: A Beautiful Dystopia, Futility
Okera, the Australian Melodic Death/Doom Metal group, was founded by Jayme in the later months of 2006. Their sound is inspired by work of bands such as: early-Opeth, Swallow the Sun, Daylight Dies, My Dying Bride and, Shape of Despair; songs that were written early on in the band's career (“The Black Rain” and “Futility”) were heavily influenced by dark, down tempo grooves and death and Funeral Doom. However, over time, the songwriting has leaned more towards Melodic Death with the newer tracks having a more upbeat feel, while still capturing the bleak and haunting sounds of the Death/Doom genre. Okera will release the upcoming album, "A Beautiful Dystopia" on May the 11th, 2012.
The stream of this album started with, "The Black Rain" , the first song from the first demo album for the band. The harsh vocals are situated alongside Doom Metal sections and the guitars are generally situated within the Progressive Metal and various experimental sections. Though, given the band's description of the death theme, they do tend to fluctuate and seep the keys in on occasions, into harsher soundscapes. This offers the listener something fresh to find appealing given the fact that the growled vocals may become tiresome. With this is mind, the song writing is never questionable. There are no moments where I am questioning the band's ability to create songs worthwhile to listen to. They experiment with tempos, sounds and textures that don’t normally go with one another.
"I Hope" is the second track, a lot of the aggression in the music is delivered by the vocal line; no matter what the pace or mood of the music is throughout the album, the growled vocals have a harsh, bark-like aggressive quality to them that conveys the lyrics in a misanthropic, Death/Doom style. The riffs are made up of a lot of heavy, crunching straight chords, semi-tremolo picked strumming and chugs forming the rhythm with little flurries of doublebass that form the raw, yet melodic, style of Death/Doom Okera excel at creating.
The third track is titled, "Futility" which was featured on the last demo as well. Though, this recording has more complex guitar work, a pleasingly subtle backing synthesis, keyboard choirs and, murky keyboard tinkling. The band also manages to incorporate faster, drum driven breaks and neo-traditional metal solos into some of their songs, giving the music a slightly traditional vibe which sounds great in the Death/Doom context.
Though this might be tacky, it sits perfectly well beside the progressive factor because the instrumentation is rarely tacked on. Even when it sounds rather prototypical, it quickly moves to extinguish any criticism that may burn the overall opinion of the record. For example, songs like, "All That’s Lost" indicate that the band isn't afraid to emphasize their roots by using catchy guitar riffs alongside the doublebass blast beats that resemble Death Metal more than Doom drum lines – they’re very good. It’s not just bashing as fast as possible, it’s unifying with the rest of the music and makes it just more melodic. Really what a pleasure to listen to it.
At, "In Solitude", the music is crushing, aggressive with excellent thrashing, strong riffs and vocals that are deathly raspy. There´s even a moment where female vocals are utilized. The aggressiveness is chilled by some acoustic moments that balance things out nicely. Top everything off with a great presentation and fantastic production and you have a winner.
The last track was featured in a previous demo album, “Like Jewels in the Sky”. In the latter half of “The Cleansing”, a deeply melodic riff takes over and guitarists, Jayme Sexton and Owen Janusauskas play in harmony before returning to the heavier riffs from the beginning of the song and flying into a solo. Here, I just want to speak about the guest keyboardist in this album, Mark Kelson , guitarist of the new band, Alternative 4. He really adds the right atmospheric chords for this album, proving my point about this masterpiece.
"A Beautiful Dystopia" begins with an aforementioned, Nevermore-sequel lick and soon falls into a memorable verse with the whole band in unison. The high, harmonized fills at the end of phrases in the verses, though, sound considerably out of place. This is the only instance where I get that feeling from the guitars. That being said, this is probably the catchiest song in the album, and that isn't a bad thing – the level of technical prowess make this much more than, say, a Doom masterpiece. Roughly through the song, the guitars launch into, dare I say it, a Progressive Metal style harmonized lead. Any thoughts of the band going soft are silenced with the crushing verse again. The outro of " A Beautiful Dystopia " is worth singling out. Guitarists are classically trained and provide a tasteful interlude before the show ends. I am trying to avoid using that word, 'tasteful,' but it's unavoidable, it characterizes the entire album.
My final words are for anyone who is a fan of any kind of Extreme Metal: take the time to listen to this album. This band is standing on the shoulders of giants, and any fans of those giants will find plenty to like in Okera's music.