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Metatron Omega - Sanctum (2016) - Review

Band: Metatron Omega
Album title: Sanctum
Release date: 16 August 2016
Label: Cryo Chamber

01. Transductio
02. In Search Of Lost Wisdom
03. Cultus
04. Trinitas
05. The Eastern Star
06. Sanctum

Metatron Omega has returned with their sophomore release, Sanctum. On Sanctum, Metatron Omega incorporates many of the themes and sounds which made his previous release, Gnosis Dei, such a success. Yet, we immediately hear a maturing of the artist and a more focused direction being taken. This is no surprise considering the large swathe of musical interests and outlets of the mysterious front man A.W. aka Scorpio V which is behind Metatron Omega as well as Paleowolf and Gaetir, The Mountainkeeper. This maturing should also not be surprising as it is likely Simon Heath had a helping hand in coaxing out the true spirit behind this Metatron Omega project.

The cover-art, similar to Gnosis Dei stylistically, depicts a ragged priestly figure, bowed in prayer, which perfectly reflects the content of Sanctum. On Sanctum, we experience feelings of solitude, piety, darkness, thick and humid atmospheres, and a constant immersion in the esoteric. This is an all around well thought out form of ritual dark ambient which would certainly share more similarities with an act like Shibalba than Halo Manash or Akoustik Timbre Frekuency. The difference stems from the varied directions and emotions which the artist wants to manipulate within the listener. Acts like Metatron Omega and Shibalba seem to be more interested in creating an atmospheric yet religious experience, one which is more observable than felt. Conversely, acts like Akoustik Timbre Frekuency and Halo Manash are more interested in bringing the listener into an actual mutually beneficial ritual, where the listener enters the trance-like state along-side the musician. I won't speak on which of these directions is more fitting to the label of ritual dark ambient, but I will say that of this particular style, Metatron Omega is one of the very best out there. In fact, it might be fitting to discard the "ritual" tag for this release completely and refer to it as an sacral dark ambient album.

"Transductio" starts with chirping birds, and then the choir immediately kicks in. Ritual bells chime. Slow moving wind-like drones gently sweep across the mix. The birds chirping stay heavy throughout the mix, giving it a sense of life and connection to nature, while simultaneously introducing us to the esoteric undertones which are constantly present throughout the album. This opener draws immediate comparison to the early sounds of Peter Andersson from raison d'etre. However here, Metatron Omega seems to be incorporating the chants a bit differently. While raison d'etre often used full samples, with effects added, Metatron Omega manipulates the choirs chord progressions themselves, adding an entirely new life to the original vocal samples. "In Search Of Lost Wisdom" begins with a much more ominous feel than the previous track. A horn-like drone rings out across the audio spectrum, distorted and manipulated chants come and go through the mix. This time the chants seem to be coming from more people, as opposed to the more solitary sound on "Transductio". "Cultus" holds many similar elements to the first two tracks but seems to take the sound into a more musical direction for at least a few moments. Heavy winds bellow in the background, along with the occasional thundering. The solo chanting returns, and this time the flow of the drones and vocals seem to melt together for a beautiful, yet decidedly haunting, experience. As the energy winds down, the chimes and bells continue to ring through the background, and the storm continues to pulse, but the droning has become more minimal, and it eventually fades out completely, leaving us with almost dead silence and the occasional thunder or chant cutting through the thick atmosphere. "Trinitas" starts off with a bell chiming, though it has been heavily treated. Strange field recordings creep through the mix before the chanting takes the lead. As the chanting kicks in, this immediately reminds me of tracks from the debut by Metatron Omega, Gnosis Dei. The atmosphere is extremely thick here, with many layers of sound coming together for a brilliantly textured track. The chanting stays prominent and repetitive throughout, at times almost feeling more like a drone than actual human vocals. A horn-like synth line cuts through the mix momentarily which adds an extremely ominous feeling to the track. Yet, by the four minute mark, "Trinitas" is still just getting started. As is often the case throughout Sanctum, just as the track meets its aural climax it immediately tapers off its intensity, slithering back into the darkness where we are again able to envision deep empty cathedral halls, buried over centuries by war and constantly evolving religiosity. We linger in this dank underworld for the remainder of "Trinitas". Just as the track is reaching its close, the chanting returns, more lonely and ominous than ever, ending "Trinitas" on an extremely somber yet contemplative note. On "The Eastern Star", harsh thick drones start this track, with an extremely deep chant coming and going in the background. As the drones become ever harsher and more prominent, we hear a female vocalist enter the mix, almost humming a melody, as the male chanters from previous tracks continue with their hymns. The mix seems perfectly balanced here, as there are such harsh drones filling out the background, it is telling that "The Eastern Star" never feels harsh at all, as a whole. After the mix has properly built up, we hear a hammering, or even possibly a marching army in the background, but I would wager it is a treated drum. This flicker of a beat is fleeting, only staying in the mix momentarily before fading off into oblivion. "The Eastern Star" meanders through the hazy void for a few more moments before the chanting and synths come back to the forefront to close out the track in an energetic fashion. "Sanctum", the album closer, follows much the same path as the rest of the tracks, with lonely chants, thick atmosphere which seems to depict some secretive underground religious shrine. There is a warm feel, and a sense of belonging. The cold and spookiness of some of the previous tracks has receded here, replaced with this sense of religious singularity. While much of the sound here is similar to previous tracks, there is something, maybe a guitar drone, which makes its first appearance and seems to add a sense of finality to the sound as the album reaches its ending.

On Sanctum, Metatron Omega seems to have changed directions a bit from his first outing, Gnosis Dei. On Gnosis Dei, frequently there were vocal passages, recited by Scorpio V, which didn't wholly work as intended. While the vocal passages were quite interesting and very well blended into the mix, the problem was that they took the listener out of their own mind and forced them back into a strictly focused production. Having listened to Gnosis Dei many times over the last year, this jarring nature of the vocal passages is a very minor gripe, yet, if one is to continue progressing in their art-form they must continue to refine their skills, which Scorpio V has surely done with Sanctum.

Having traded in the spoken word for the hymnal chants, Metatron Omega has successfully replaced one form of sacral vocals, which didn't necessarily fit the bill, for another which not only fits the genre, and the release perfectly, but also has the potential to drag in a huge crowd of raison d'etre fans who are ever longing for a return to his mid-late 90s musical style. We may never get that version of raison d'etre back, but we are indeed seeing an album in Sanctum, which has reverently incorporated Gregorian chants, yet in a wholly different way than we experienced through old raison d'etre albums. Sanctum is an absolute must have for fans of sacral dark ambient, who prefer a refined and cinematic experience instead of the more hypnotic experience presented by acts like Halo Manash and others on Aural Hypnox. With Sanctum improving on the Metatron Omega sound in almost every way, it is hard to imagine what amazing works the future holds in store for this highly talented musician.

Review written by: Michael
Rating: 9/10