In today’s metal landscape, “dark metal” is a loaded term that encapsulates multiple subgenres. Color me surprised, then, when Fifth to Infinity‘s debut Omnipotent Transdimensional Soulfire labeled itself as “blackened dark metal.” Somewhere at the intersection of doom, melodic black, and progressive metal (not “prog,” though), OTS has the ingredients for an intriguing and challenging listen but fails to deliver this consistently over its runtime. While there are great moments, the album as a whole is a maddening blend of simultaneous detours and overstayed welcomes.
Fifth to Infinity’s background would make one believe that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts: Martin Lopez (ex-Opeth) is on drums, and the band has been an entity since 1997. Strangely, though, their debut is just now seeing the light of day because of numerous setbacks and contractual issues. (The album was recorded in 2013.) With a tumultuous history, there is a palpable frustration and anger in the songs — especially Nader Reslan’s vocal performance — but there are structuring issues and songwriting flubs that make the band’s backstory more interesting than its music. FTI deal in mid-paced, doom-influenced melodic black/death metal with moments of eerie ambience. Fans of early 00s Enslaved, late Dissection, and Celtic Frost’s Monotheist will find things to like, but the album rarely veers from the formula established in its beginning tracks.
Omnipotent Transdimensional Soulfire‘s other main issue is that there are too many red herrings that take away from the core of the songs, which are themselves not bad, just too pedestrian to have staying power. “Reaper’s Wake” has excellent momentum once it gets going with driving melodic black/death rhythms but shoots its own foot with an awkward opening section that lessens its power, making the climaxes less satisfying; “Masters Unbound” would have made a better launch from the (overly long) introduction. Additionally, transitions within the songs feel underdeveloped, namely on “The Promise of Abyss,” which goes from crushing doom to melodic black metal without much finesse.
Songwriting missteps aside, the album loses steam after its first half: “Masters Unbound” and “The Fall of the Seven” are both excellent and feel more focused, but around the time that “Secrets of the Bottom” starts, it becomes clear that Fifth to Infinity are drawing from a fairly shallow well. There is thought put into conjuring dark atmospheres, but the second half suffers from homogenous pacing augmented by restraints in both performance and production. Only in sections of “Secrets of the Bottom” and closing track “The Blessings of Annihilation” do the band let loose and give teeth to their darkly melodic soundscapes. Lopez’s drumming is tame compared to the dark, aggressive nature of the music, and both the bass and guitar lack presence to give the needed power to these songs.
While there are gems — “Death Shall Wake Us All” and “The Fall of the Seven” are particularly good — there’s work to be done to tighten up future works and to branch out in terms of pacing and aggression. For as long as it took for Fifth to Infinity to get their debut out, it’s merely decent, but there is room to grow for future outings.