Recorded and mixed at the Darklab and SCC Studios, Seattle, USA, summer of 2009. Produced by EJ Oropza. Mastering by Dan Swano at Unisound Studios, Örebro, Sweden. Drums engineered by Brian Stephens at Eternal Beat Studios. Music and lyrics by EJ Oropza.
Somnae hail from Seattle, Washington but don’t fall into the stereotypical ‘Seattle-sound’ genre forged by the likes of Mudhoney Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, or the like. Encyclopedia Metallum categorises them as melodic/progressive death metal.
To date this appears to be their only release, a three track EP from 2010. Their website hints at a full-length album in the works, but it also hopes that this will be available at the beginning of 2011; that was two years ago. So what has happened, where are they? Their website doesn’t seem to give any hints.
Somane’s sound falls somewhere between Opeth (but without the clean vocals or more quietly acoustic sections) and Paradise Lost, and I’m sure a million bands in between. Heavy but melodic; the fusion of a doom-like pace with a death metal attitude.
The title track opens the EP with a dischordant riff that quickly morphs into a pretty recognisable death metal chord progression for about 30 seconds before the vocals join in: throaty, growling lyrics that aren’t always easy to make out. The remaining two songs follow a very similar vein.
“An Ominous Strain” kicks off with a very energetic riff that promises an up-beat, up-tempo song. But when the vocals grind their way into the mix at around 27 seconds the pace slows down to an almost dirge that is held up by the constant kick drums in the background.
“Fragile Tomorrow” begins quietly, with a rather too slow a start, taking almost a minute to warm up to full speed and volume. Then it’s more of the same: growling vocals, ponderous melodies, grinding riffs.
The trouble with this EP is that in my mind one song merges into the next. I’ve just listened to the disc three times back to back and I still find myself thinking, “isn’t that the same riff as the previous song?” At least I can now distinguish the intros.
This isn’t a bad release per se. The musicianship and production are very good, and the songs are very well crafted; none of that gets in the way as can sometimes happen. The problem is though that I’ve heard it all before. If I wanted to listen to a band that sounded like Opeth or Paradise Lost then I’d listen to Opeth or Paradise Lost. Somnae haven’t really brought anything new to the table with this EP, they don’t yet seem to have stamped their own unique mark of identity on their sound. Maybe the last three years have changed some of that. If they have then I wish they would tell us.
This is a solid EP with three very finely written songs. But it’s almost progressive metal by numbers which kinds of lets it down a bit. I certainly wouldn’t fast forward any of these songs if I heard them on a random-play playlist on my mp3 collection, but I’m not sure I would make the effort to look out the album to play it specifically.
Review score: 60%