Ill Omen’s smeary black metal takes destructive, cavernous turns on ‘The Grande Usurper’

I’m never going to Australia, and there’s not a thing you can do to change my mind. Nothing against that fine continent, but I’ve already seen the snakes and spiders that call that land home, and I would like to keep as much distance possible between me and them.

That’s kind of a shame, because Australia has a shit ton of great bands (just saw one over the weekend in funeral doom walkers Mournful Congregation), and so much of what comes from there is creepy and terrifying. There’s another in the form of Ill Omen, the project long helmed by IV, also of such notable bands as Temple Nightside, Funerary Torch, Nazxul, and plenty of others, who pours wicked and devastating black metal into this particular band. Over the course of the past 12 years, Ill Omen have offered up three full-length efforts (their last was 2016’s “Æ.Thy.Rift”) as well as a slew of other releases, including their hellacious new EP “The Grande Usurper.” This four-track, nearly 24-minute effort comes our way via the always-reliable Iron Bonehead and contains some of the band’s strangest, darkest material and a chance for them to push their chasm even further into damnation. It’s a quick listen as a result, but it’s one that pushes and devastates along the way.

“The Ruinous Drear” starts with dizzying chimes before a massive storm cloud arrives overhead, and coarse, hellish vocals make their way to the Earth, sickening and frightening. Terrifying moans sprawl, while the speed arrives, as chaos and eeriness are swallowed by cavernous power. “A Sentenced Suffering” has buzz saw guitars chewing flesh, as the pace blisters, and guitar squall stings your ears. The tempo stomps guts, pained growls work their way into your psyche, and the guitars go off in a blazing terror. The track slows a bit but keeps the pressure mounting, while guitars burn relentlessly, and the end bludgeons.

“An Eld Living Darkness” gets off to a smashing start, as a doomy undertow pulls you beneath the waves, and the track hits a slurry pace. Strangeness spreads its wings, while warped guitars ignite a psychedelic haze, and weird tones chill your flesh. From there, the track comes to a scary, rumbling finish. “A Thousand Yawning Graves” is burly and monstrous, and the vocals are scary as hell. Doom mixes with black metal’s blood, as the guitars speed up dangerously, and warped growls are launched. Detached wails haunt your dreams, as the guitars melts your face, chaos and noise rumble, and the track comes to a ground-crumbling final resting place.

As terrifying as, say, an inland taipan might be, perhaps the strange emanations from Ill Omen are even more toxic. This mini release is smoldering and vicious but also captivating and daring. These are four tracks that take you deep into the heart of black metal’s most horrifying caverns and leave you, with nearly no oxygen, to find your way out.

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