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(120:21 2CD, ‘Omnia Opera’ / Black Widow Records)
Prolusion. The UK outfit OMNIA OPERA was formed back in 1985, and prior to taking an elongated hiatus they released two albums, “Omnia Opera” in 1993 and “Red Shift” in 1997. “Nothing Is Ordinary" is their first release since opting to continue again as a band, and this double feature was self-released in 2011 and then later picked up by the Italian label Black Widow Records for distribution.
CD 1 (63:16)
TRACK LIST: 1. Destroyer of Worlds 7:36 2. Second Skin 8:10 3. Genus of Angels 3:39 4. Nothing Is Ordinary 11:29 5. Supernova 10:55 6. Liquid Underground 9:50 7. Umbilical 1:46 8. Pictures on the News 9:53 LINEUP: Captain Bagley – synthesizers; vocals Neil Spragg – drums; electronics Andy Jones – bass; vocals Rob Lloyd – guitars Libby Vale – vocals With: Sarah Jones – saxophone Mike Cutts – speech
Analysis. Omnia Opera is a band that has chosen what most describe as space rock to be their stylistic expression of choice, and have opted to hone in on a particular version of it: the one explored by legendary UK act Hawkwind in the mid to late 70's, rather energetic and driving music in other words, based around fairly accessible and likable themes. And as one can expect with the above reference in mind, a sturdy and fairly dominant bass guitar is at the heart of the proceedings: dark, rich and powerful, and most of all on opening piece Destroyer of Worlds, a mostly instrumental effort where the bass foundation easily merits a description as meaty. The drums interact well with the bass guitar to form an energetic basic arrangement, an impressive and effective backbone to the excursions of this UK act. Guitars and keyboards cater for details of a slightly finer nature, although in the case of the former we're not just treated to lighter toned soloing and echoing riffs, as Omnia Opera fairly often adds a punk oriented touch to their compositions by way of staccato, hard and edgy guitar riffs. But those who crave finer details and psychedelic oriented motifs and textures will get plenty of those too. As for the keyboards, synthesizers and effects, they provide the sounds and motifs expected, with fluctuating textures and futuristic sounds aplenty throughout. While Hawkwind tends to be within close range, Omnia Opera navigates their way around space outer and inner, adding in the occasional detour not quite as typical too. That their journeys occasionally wander about a bit more than Brock and his various bandmates generally have chosen to do a fine development in that department, and blending a more ambient tinged gentle chorus with harder edged, grimier verse and instrumental parts on Pictures on the News is another effective approach. But the standout creation as far as reaching out to other dimensions comes courtesy of Liquid Underground, a piece that to my ears comes across as a fairly equal blend of early 70's Hawkwind and Gong as far as orientations go. Omnia Opera may not be the most innovative band around, and one might argue that they should reach out towards more creative territories. But when they are so damn good at what they are doing here that I see no reason for that. If you like high energy, high impact space rock the way Dave Brock and company did it back in the day, this first half of Omnia Opera's double feature "Nothing Is Ordinary" will most likely be experienced as a creation deserving of it's title.
CD 2 (57:04)
TRACK LIST: 1. Gateway 1:53 2. The Malgi 13:21 3. There Is a Field 2:35 4. Mr. Sludge 4:26 5. Clouds Gather 3:04 6. Big Brother 9:48 7. Corridor of Crows 3:20 8. Under The Sun 9:54 9. It Was the Time When 1:35 10. Leaning Backwards 7:09 LINEUP: Captain Bagley – synthesizers; vocals Neil Spragg – drums; electronics Andy Jones – bass; vocals Rob Lloyd – guitars Libby Vale – vocals With: Plum Cooper – vocals Caitlin Morgan – vocals
Analysis. Double studio albums can be the result of many different approaches, the most common one obviously that a band has prepared too much material to fit into one CD and would like to release it all at once. In most cases this presents us with a double feature with few differences between the first and second disc, but in some cases the band opts to sort their material so that there is a marked difference between the two. Omnia Opera appears to be a fairly good representative of this. While the first half of "Nothing Is Ordinary" documented a band flying fairly close to the spaceship Hawkwind with occasional detours away, the other disc generally keeps a good distance with occasional fly by's instead. The songs are less energetic, the punk-tinged elements only rarely appearing, and while this is still the band that tends to utilize the bass guitar as something of a foundation, this time around it's employed in arrangements of a distinctly gentler nature. Apart from a number of shorter pieces with more of an ambient emphasis, the material is less dramatic, less intense and less 70's sounding when it comes to that. One of the few shorter efforts that shy away from the ambient touch, Mr. Sludge, is a rare example of a punk-tinged excursion on this second disc, while the epic The Malgi takes on a smoother sound initially prior to heading out into a more typical space rock sound for the instrumental sequence and ends up in a slow, sleepy and almost ambient, lazy constellation. Cinematic piece Clouds Gather is a suitably creepy introduction to the highlight of this disc, namely Big Brother. Opening up as some sort of blend between Hawkwind style space rock and AOR, this piece develops into a multiple themed excursion with a nice increase in pace and intensity in all of them, and from a few minutes in revisiting both the Hawkwind style in general and also making a few nods in the direction of that band's punk-tinged expression. Under the Sun represents a slight deviation again, with a recurring gentle bass, keyboards and vocals theme that lapses into a darker sounding, more intense excursion with occasional nods to both Hawkwind and Black Sabbath. Final piece Leaving Backwards opts for the calmer approach again, with wandering guitar patterns and gently echoing guitar riffs later on supplementing the bass and keyboards in a lighter toned, almost fragile construction. While documenting that Omnia Opera is a band with a broader range than one specific type of space rock, personally I found this second disc to be somewhat less interesting despite the variation showcased. The band is skilled at creating calmer pieces with an ambient touch, but the longer excursions of a gentler nature don't manage to replace neither the tension nor the drive of the high impact creations with moods intriguing enough to be truly captivating. Anyhow, this is a pleasant musical material, well made and interesting, but without reaching the brilliant tops of the first disc. But if nothing else this second disc showcases quite nicely that Omnia Opera isn't just a one trick pony, and the variety it brings to the table will undoubtedly be appreciated by many fans.
Conclusion. Omnia Opera's return as recording artists have resulted in a high quality double-disc album, of which the first one documents the band at their very best with its hour long run through of high energy, high impact Hawkwind style space rock. The second disc documents the versatility of the band, and sees it explore space rock territories of a less intense and generally gentler overall nature. A fine production all in all, with fans of 70's Hawkwind being most likely the key audience.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: December 13 & 14, 2012
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