OFFICIUM TRISTE – The Death Of Gaia
- by ER
- Posted on 10-01-2020
According to Encyclopedia Metallum, Officium Triste means something like a sad service, referring to a funeral. Formed in 1994, in Rotterdam, South Holland, the outfit debuted with "Demo ’94" (1994), followed 3 years later by the "Ne Vivam" LP, "The Pathway" LP (2001), "Reason" LP (2004), "Giving Yourself Away" LP (2007), and, finally, "Mors Viri" (2013), the album of my introduction to the band. Its final track, "Like Atlas", inspired a personal deep introspection of my spiritual, emotional and psychological condition, which led to my online encounter with Officium Triste’s mainman, Martin Kwakernaak, who helped me get out of a personal crisis. If you ever doubt music can change lives – there’s a living proof of the contrary. "Mors Viri" was so great and so well-balanced, too boot, I doubted they would be able to beat, let alone match it.
Recorded as the aforementioned Martin Kwakernaak (keyboards, acoustic guitars), Gerard De Jong (guitars), William Van Dijk (guitars), Pim Blankenstein (vocals), Theo Plaisier (bass) and Niels Jordaan (drums), "The Death Of Gaia" is a tale of the Earth’s last days. The titular Gaia is an ancient representation of Planet Earth, a goddess and a mother to mankind, according to ancient mythology. In its endless pursuit of riches, power and perennial ego boost, to paraphrase Metallica’s "Blackened", we see our mother put to death, see our mother die. We, humans, collectively made it happen, "nations built with arrogance/nations decline from ignorance/nations undermined by belligerence" and "in the end it makes no difference" (World In Flames) as now all we can do is watch it all burn down.
Hearing the opener, "The End Is Nigh", with its gentle violin melody and female choir reminiscent (purposely?) of classic Christian carols such as "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" it seems the record will be a lighter affair than its predecessor, and, to an extent, this is true. The only song truly exhibiting deathly vibe is, the favorite, the most excellent funeral cut, "Shackles" with its almost thrashy ending somewhat akin to "Burning All Boats And Bridges" from "Mors Viri", yet retaining its own identity. Most of the other songs, including the 2nd favorite, "Like A Flower In The Desert" highly reminiscent of Katatonia’s "Tonight’s Decision", My Dying Bride’s "The Light At The End Of The World", Paradise Lost’s "Draconian Times" and Amorphis’ stylings, focus primarily on delivering copious amounts of sparkling melody, the purpose in which they recall Mournful Congregation", or, more palpably, Swallow The Sun’s epic "Doomed To Walk The Earth". Influences of more melodeath progression the likes of Omnium Gatherum or Be’lakor are felt particularly on the aforementioned "World In Flames" (it does not help that Pim Blankenstein’s vocals are suddenly highly evocative of Jukka Pelkonen or George Kosmas, respectively) while the closing "Losing Ground" brings Dark Tranquility’s Bengt Mikael Stanne’s processed cleans and "The Auction". All of these touches add much flavor to this excellent material, with the listener definitely benefitting from repeated exposure to the material. The performances and songwriting being of utmost quality, only one significant flaw mars this endeavor.
As excellent as "Death Of Gaia" is, it suffers from lack of variety. Yes, this is melodic, somewhat deathly doom and it is a given that we should not expect too much variation but "Mors Viri" still managed to present each track in a slightly different form, with the longest saved for last. In comparison, this, the 6th album, tries very hard for almost half of its length but then the 2nd half’s 4 tracks are all in the same general vein, again, not to take away from their undeniable quality and charm, but still, by the time "Losing Ground" rolls in with its main riff dangerously similar to the preceding "Like A Flower In The Desert", the listener gets a little weary. In short, the material could have used some editing, although the closer’s life line going flat is a nice touch and a fitting conceptual closure.
If you loved "Mors Viri" I don’t think this album will disappoint you and it might even gain some fans from outside of metal community, much the same way Dark Tranquility’s "Projector" or "Heaven" did, although "The Death Of Gaia" is a heavy metal album through and through. I recommend it, too, if you enjoyed Omnium Gatherum’s "Beyond" or Be’lakor’s "Of Breath And Bone". I can’t tell where they’ll go from here but I will definitely wait for it with great interest.