Ornaments of Agony - Zovlongiyn UgalzHailing from that legendary hotbed of heavy metal Ulaan Baataar, Mongolia, Ornaments of Agony is a funeral doom band (meaning that if you enjoy listening to it, they have failed and you are entitled to your money back).

Funeral doom is not a genre that lends itself to mutation and experiment. There is only one way to do this sound, and Ornaments of Agony sound much like Wormphlegm and Ahab and all the rest. A distant, reverb-saturated guitar assault rips at your ears, like buzzsaws from a kilometer away. A vocalist croaks and groans miserably, his voice distorted and Daleked beyond recognition. Pianos play ugly, chromatic melodies. Pianos seem a fixture in funeral doom, I suppose because an ear bored of guitar dissonance can be shocked anew by awful noises made on a piano. In D&D terms, the guitars are chaotic evil, while the pianos are lawful evil.

“Heregsuur” emerges from a null hypothesis of fuzzy industrial noise. The song initially sounds like a relaxing Pelican song before becoming nasty and brutal. “Huiten amisgal” is really too fast for funeral doom, and is more vocally-driven than the others, but the general template of dissonance remains.

The performance is (deliberately?) sloppy, with different tones and timbres just coming and going, none of them really in time or having much to do with each other. The old joke goes: three men in the third world are in prison, and they ask each other why. The first says ‘I was always 5 minutes late for work, so I was accused of sabotage’ The second says ‘I was always 5 minutes early for work, so I was accused of espionage’ But the third says ‘I was always on time for work, so I was accused of having a Western watch’. That could also describe the tracking and recording of this album.

“Tumen jargal, arvin zovlon” finishes the album much as it starts – that’s my one complaint, it’s that the album is too unvarying in its approach. Maybe the band members thought that the album should be constructed like a battleship – solid gray steel from top to bottom, with no point of weakness. But Sun O)))’s “Alice” shows that slow metal songs don’t have to be like that. You can finish different to how you started, without compromising a track or album’s intensity and bleakness.

Like all extreme metal, Ornaments of Agony abandons songwriting and merely tries to be an unforgettable experience. One band of this style sounds the same as the next, and I have no idea if this band’s one member is intentionally sloppy or just sucks at playing. But the goal is achieved, nevertheless. Genghis Khan would execute enemies by pouring liquid metal down their throats, and Ornaments of Agony continues his tradition in sonic form.

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