Omela are a Russian band from Moscow, formed in 2008. I listened to them for the first time in 2011 after the release of their second full-length album “Aura”, when I finally found out that Sergey “Abrey” Abramov, whose clean singing I already enjoyed while listening to Butterfly Temple, now had his solo project. And this particular album hit me at the right moment and wouldn’t let me go for quite some time! Now, 6 years later, I’ve listened to this record innumerable times, so that I’ve got most of the songs in my head, almost completely, and I can sing along half of the lyrics. Well, one octave lower, usually.
Abrey’s great vocals in tenor voice are something that you have to like or get accustomed to, as there are no death or black metal vocals on this album. But I wouldn’t recommend this album to strict listeners of black and death metal, anyway. In general, there is not much to criticise as his clean singing is of high quality and a certain classical singing education is audible. He also manages well in the lower tonal regions, which can act as a certain kind of relief and calm at some points. In general, I was a little astounded that I enjoyed his rather high-pitched vocals so much, because I usually can’t listen to most of power metal or a lot of classical heavy metal because I can’t stand the vocals for longer periods of time. But I like classical singing and classical music in general, so Abrey’s vocals already sounded somewhat familiar to me when I listened to Butterfly Temple many, many years before.
Musically speaking, this album has a lot to offer as well, which is at least equally important to me. The back bone of the songs basically consists of rather classical metal and rock (as far as I can tell), which is quite obvious when listening to the rhythm guitar section as well as the frequent and extravagant solos. But there is some harder influence as well, which makes the album even more enjoyable to me. This influence reminds me of the folky doom metal passages that Butterfly Temple are known for. The guitar work on this album is amazing and serves its purposes perfectly, either accompanying the vocals or giving way to some great instrumental parts. But great guitars and great vocals aren’t necessarily enough to create a great album. In case of “Aura”, the piece of art in its whole is created by the implementation of several classical instruments that play an important role.
In each of the 10 songs, viola and (traverse) flute can be heard, act either as rhythmical support or as the crowning element for some of the instrumental parts when contributing meticulously arranged beautiful melodies. The viola is played by Fedor Vetrov, whom I have to highlight specifically because I consider him an immensely talented musician. As a versatile multi-instrumentalist, he already contributed to a multitude of interesting projects by playing viola, violin, several flutes, oboe, bag pipes and other folkloristic instruments. With respect to “Aura”, the viola and flute make up an important part of the whole sound, but they are even complemented by harp (in “Gorkaya Osen”) and saxophone (“Gorkaya Osen”, “Nevidimaya”, “Vstretcha”, and “Svetlaya Voda”). Both instruments blend in perfectly, and the sax in particular creates several little highlights on its own. For example, there is a sad but light, hovering melody at the end of “Nevidimaya” that I find extremely touching.
In any case, the interplay of viola, flute, harp, and sax with keyboard, e-guitars and acoustic guitars creates a lot of variability and a huge emotional band width. Along with this, the drumming has to be highlighted as well. Although it does not have such front-line moments, the drummer does an amazing job accentuating the different tempi of the songs without even having to use blast beats or double bass (well, almost).
The stylistical characterisation of this kind of music proves to be difficult. I’d describe it as folk heavy metal, more or less. Metal-archives lists Omela as “Folk/Heavy/Doom Metal/Rock”, which I agree with as well. At least, this classification also implies that this music is not your usual party and drinking folk metal, but rather music that has a certain kind of gravity and seriousness attached to it. This notion is further supported by the high degree of professionalism that all of the band members show. Actually, this as well as the music itself is closer to classical music than to folk, most of the time, at least, which leads me to the consideration that this music might also appeal to open-minded listeners of serious, classical music, to whom metal music usually means loud noise.
The very well-balanced, meticulously crafted compositions on this record invite the inclined listener to a fascinating, versatile journey that lasts 70 minutes and never gets boring – at least not to me. There are a lot of emotional ups and downs, perfectly accentuated by vocals and instruments, with a multitude of instrumental highlights. This certain way of craftsmanship makes it possible to follow this journey even without specific language knowledge, although a certain level of interest in cultures and languages is required, naturally. But the rest can be read and understood (or, better, felt) to a sufficient degree by what is happening musically, even though there is a lot going on here.
All in all, this is an amazing album that perfectly blends different styles and themes with nature-inspired yet very personal lyrics. It’s hard to recommend a specific song, because I have a new favourite with each listen – or no favourite at all. For some reasons I chose as starters “Gorkaya Osen” and “Vstretcha”, just click on the titles. There aren’t many full songs on youtube, but you can listen to them on myzuka.ru, if you’re not scared off by the Cyrillic letters. Furthermore, I can recommend you to watch the multiple live videos available on youtube, especially because you can convince yourself that Omela are a great live band and Abrey is an amazing live performer as well. Unfortunately, merchandise is still only available via their site at vkontakte.com.
(A German-language version of this review is available at stormbringer.at)