Featuring an assortment of Norwegian musicians and the odd guest appearance from some underground household names, Okular could not truly be labelled a supergroup, but their collective approach to composition and recording eschews the traditional method, with all composition and lyrics by Andreas Aubert while the core of the recording line-up is comprised of two members of Aspherium, with another two members handling vocals. This unorthodox approach could have produced an utter dogs dinner, but instead we are presented with an hour’s worth of mind-boggling technical death metal with each member contributing something different and unique.
Opening track ‘House Full of Colours’ experiments with changes of pace and melody with the guitar of Marius Skarsem Pedersen alternating between skin-flaying death metal riffs and doomy melody lines. This is followed by the brief stop-start battering and blasting of ‘Not Separate’ which comes across like Gojira ditching their mainstream pretensions and having a crack at the heavy stuff proper. The slightly cheesy clean vocals that pop up throughout the vaguely jazzy vibes of the title track are incongruous to say the least, although the ever-shifting melodies and solos call to mind latter-day Death. The song literally cannot sit still for a second and there are enough ideas crammed into the four-odd minutes to fill half an album.
Things slow down a tad with the mid-paced, churning riffage of ‘The Greatest Offender’ which features a guest appearance from Borknagar’s Vintersorg, although the aggressive edge is never fully ironed out, even during the soaring vocals of the chorus. A more traditional extreme metal approach is taken on the rattling ‘Ride the Waves of Emotion’ which sounds like Obscura jamming with Illdisposed. It’s this merging of bonehead death metal riffs and progressive inclinations that make “Sexforce” such an intriguing album, although you sometimes find yourself wishing they would ditch the noodling and really run with a good meaty riff.
After the slightly bizarre acoustic interlude of ‘The King of Life’ we are taken on another fret-bending odyssey with ‘Exposing the Good Citizens’ and the kinetic riffage and death grunts of ‘Feast Upon the Illusory’ before being thrown yet another curveball on the emotive piano-led ‘To Ring the Bells of Truth’ which thinks nothing of throwing in extreme vocals among the tinkling ivories. Things get technical again with ‘Politically Incorrect Experiences’ which again manages to cram far more ideas than are strictly necessary into its running time, but you’ll be too busy gasping at the fearless time changes and stunning guitar chops on display to really give a shit.
Proving that the Norwegians can do death metal when they really want to, Okular have delivered one of the most surprising and exciting albums of the year so far, and it’s clear that a whole lot of passion and talent has gone into “Sexforce.” They could possibly benefit from writing some actual songs rather than another hour of intimidating guitar work-outs for the next album, but there’s so much creativity on display, it’s likely you, along with the members will be having too much fun to notice.