Although never entirely in my inner circle of personal favorites stemming from the Greek metal scene, I was genuinely excited to hear of a new On Thorns I Lay release coming out in 2018. With the “back to the roots” suffix added by the band themselves, I was expecting a profound doom-ish heaviness with a certain Mediterranean atmosphere (early-mid 90s extreme metal grandeur from Hellas has always had a massive impact on this very reviewer here) to quench my thirst for this style of metal.
Truth be told – my expectations were not met at all.
It wasn’t clear to me immediately. When the first song starts after a mood-setting introduction, you are soon being welcomed by a heavy barrage of riffs and some pristine melodic lead guitars, set pretty close to my preferred timbral picture. Garnered with rather deep, yet decipherable growling by Stefanos Kintzoglou, it seemed as if this album could turn out to be an interesting journey and so I kept listening, wondering what they would serve up next.
Well, I had to wait until song number seven, “The Final Truth” to finally experience something truly DIFFERENT to a dreary doom/death-metal-by-the-numbers formula that I had to wade through up to this point. The dragging, samey guitar riffs, these initially potent but soon-to-be-repetitive lead melodies, the predictable acoustic guitar breaks (hello Opeth!) and the extremely invariant vocal-performance throughout the first 30 (!) minutes were almost too boring to handle in a single listen. Most of these songs don’t need to be this long – if you don’t have the ideas to fill this much aural space, then just don’t. Sure, the genre is renowned for some repetition but this is total exaggeration!
So what about the concluding third of “Aegean Sorrow”? While it sounds quite different, the groove metal-esque riffing in “The Final Truth” is not heavy enough to be fun and besides it does not possess many memorable qualities at all and the track’s chorus doesn’t flow too well. But although only sparingly utilized, there is some refreshing clean singing in here that breaks up the vocal monotony. Surprisingly, with the decrease of metal elements on the last two songs, some more creative spark is being introduced. The group manages to leave the worn-out formula behind for a bit as they churn out a nicely written piano ballad at the end of the album to spice up their recipe a little – too bad that even “Skotos” suffers somewhat from the “repeat-until-dead”-syndrome. Obviously it is too little – too late, as this new On Thorns I Lay-offering has already left a bitter taste in my mouth and I’m afraid that my cravings for this style of metal have been successfully killed off for a while and that surely is no good premise for an honest recommendation.