THE DEMO CORNER
As I’m typing out this review after listening to the debut album A Beautiful Dystopia from Australia’s Okera, I am sitting at my desk with a brilliant and sudden thunderstorm battering my window frames, jarring me every so often from the lull of musical subservience I so enjoy. From the opening chords of “The Black Rain” I’m immediately filled with a sense of melancholy and dread that completely overwhelms and delights me as the rain and darkness only add to my elemental bliss. As the track moves on I shut out the only light I have for illumination and let the surroundings compliment the music. It is wonderful.
Okera was once described to me as “Opeth without some balls” while the person then went on to denigrate bands of similar style for not being more “Opeth-like”. I wasn’t sure whether to physically assault the guy that said such a trivial comment or just leave him meandering in his own sick and one-dimensional fantasies. After considering courts and jails and lack of my music collection on the inside, I opted to walk away and listen to the CD without further disruptions. What you get with A Beautiful Dystopia is not overt Opeth-worship. The fact that vocalist Jayme Sexton might employ a similar ‘death metal’ singing style to Mikael Akerfeldt implies…nothing. As usual, armchair critics have limited scopes of comparison, so we leave them to their miseries. I’d be lying and criminally dismissive if I said there isn’t a hint of Opeth’s earlier sound simmering between the notes, but where the older band has left in the dust all traces of this amazing sound, Okera takes the battered tapestry and unravels the frayed threads for a new take on a beautiful noise.
Okera has a severely atmospheric edifice of musical design in the 55-minutes of music they offer here. I’m not sure if it was the darkened shrine from which I enjoyed the CD that was so dynamic for me, but when the room filled with the sounds of external solemnity I was immediately overtaken with the musical equivalent of a fascinating thunderstorm raging through the area, creating invigorating visages fit for fantasy. The music is only best described (by me) as some carefully-crafted sorrow without giving way to full-on doom or funeral-like metal music. While you can become systematically engrossed in the moody spirit of the album, it is best to let yourself become as open as possible so that a track like “In Solitude” can enter your soul freely, able to nick and dent the walls with a subtle sadness that is well-presented inside some almost sensuously dark metal music that balances somewhere between melodic doom and a dark progressive feel.
The halfway mark of “All That’s Lost” is so disturbingly intense that I can feel myself getting lost within the almost-weepy cascading of the music; it’s the type of music that if given the right amount of generous altitude can lift you above the mire and positions you in a comfortable embrace of slow familiarity and subtle genius. I am infinitely glad I discovered this band and can honestly hope for the very best to emanate from the well of creativity that the band seems to have a bucket or two within.
By the end of the album, almost as if on cue, the sky behind me clears and a thin, invasive light seems to overtake the room, crawling slowly up the walls and along the desk where I sit, making its undeniable presence known. While I would usually welcome such a bright entrance on any other day, today’s mission seems a bit bothersome. It was a cathartic musical experience, one I can honestly say I’ve not had before in all of my years. While it might have well been just coincidence or proper timing that I took in A Beautiful Dystopia with a summer thunderstorm wreaking havoc outside my door, I am thankful for the experience. If a band’s record can make an otherwise dreary afternoon a wonderfully fulfilling experience, the band has something worth inspecting.
Okera produced a fine debut and the great Mother was inclined to agree.
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1. The Black Rain
2. I Hope
4. In Solitude
5. All That's Lost
6. Like Jewels in the Sky
7. A Beautiful Dystopia
Total playing time: 56:24
Release Date: May 11, 2012
Label: Band Self Released
Okera - A Beautiful Dystopia
June 29, 2012