Dire Omen, a three-piece black/death metal band from Edmonton, Alberta, have released demos and EPs in the past, but Wrestling the Revelation of Futility, a weighty title if there was one, is their first full-length album. Obviously, this is an intellectual band, which you can parse from the song titles: “Hemotically Possessed”, “Inversion of Samadhi Dire Omen”, “Servus Sevorum Dei”, yadda, yadda, yadda. Yes, there is a propensity for Latin, but don’t let that throw you. You can’t hear the lyrics anyway. This is a sometimes-speedy, bone-crushing metalfest with vocals seemingly provided by Satan himself. While the album is basically one long song that lasts 40-odd minutes — or so it seems — the metallic riffage and thudding drums are a delight to hear in a way. Dire Omen is a black cauldron of monochromatic squalor, punishing and gripping at the same time. It is the sound of wailing, flagellating oneself against the void, and it’s hard to imagine that this is the sound of just three people.
Alas, a sore point is just that: the muddied sound of this record, which seems to belie its shoestring budget. The drums, in particular, feel tinny and hollow, and the bass, at times, seems almost non-existent. And while the band bridges the gap between songs without a pause for breath, there are the marks of poor editing. Literally, when one song leads to another, there’s a lurch in the recording (at least on my digital copy). Ergo, it just seems natural that Dire Omen is probably, at this point, best experienced in the concert setting. There’s much to like about this group’s sound, direction and weightiness, but the poor production really undercuts the meatiness of their material. It’s a shame, really, because so much potential feels squandered. If you can dart your ears beyond the horrible sound, there’s something here that’s worth excavating. However, that may be a hard feat, a daunting task, and Wrestling the Revelation of Futility in due course grapples with the awful sonics. With a bigger budget and a better recording studio, Dire Omen may become a band of which it is worth taking note.