Omnia Opera - "Red Shift" (Delerium 1997, DELEC CD044)
From Aural Innovations #5 (January 1999)
When I reflect back over the past year I don't think so much in terms of best releases as I do my own favorite new "finds". Bands that blow me clean out of the water. Alien Planetscapes was one such find. Kingston Wall was another. The other big standout find of the past year was Omnia Opera. None of these are by any means new bands (and Kingston Wall no longer exists), and publishing AI has been a tremendous benefit in that I'm discovering a lot of gems that I've missed over the years.
My introduction to Omnia Opera was through a couple tapes recorded in the 1980's. The music on these releases is firmly in the Ozrics, Hawkwind, Gong school with a little more of a nod in Gong's direction. But it's grade-A spacerock from the British festival scene. "Red Shift" is the band's second CD release on Delerium following their 1993 self-titled debut. That recording presented a harsher edged version of the 80's recordings I'd heard and even included crunchier versions of a couple of the tunes from those earlier cassettes.
"Red Shift" is a somewhat toned down version of the first Delerium release, though still a great spacerock release. On this CD the band consists of Rob Lloyd on guitar, Ade Scholefield on keyboards and synths, Andy Jones on bass and vocals, Neil Spragg on drums, and Nat Jones and Lisa Moriaty on vocals. Much of the music is like the Ozrics with vocals and the rest is good old Hawkwind influenced spacerock, though the band has moved into a decidedly dance oriented direction.
The CD opens with "Annihilation". The first half of this 13 minute tune is heavy driving spacerock with just a hint of a dance beat. The second half is a spacey Hawkwind techno sounding bit that culminates in a total Ozrics jam. The band seems to have a penchant for these dance beats as this crops up again on "Timelines". This isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, they do a good job with this sound remaining firmly in the space camp and managing to crank out extended jams that just happen to keep ones toes tapping, much like some of Porcupine Tree's music. "Fly And Burn" is one of the heavier tunes but has a beat like one of those all night raves in which you get little relief from the dance floor. "Shopping General" is much like this as well combining blazing guitar with a cut the rug all night rhythm.
The band drifts into dreamland with the more ethereal "Astronomica", an instrumental sequenced tune which leads into the 13 minute "Braindance", another driving spacerocker that would go over well at a rave. Kind of like dance mix versions of their earlier recordings. I found "Regeneration" to be much more to my liking. The male/female vocal harmonies that are part of the trademark Omnia Opera sound are prominent on this rocking song. Simple, but stinging, guitar lines give this tune an intensity I'd been hoping for on the previous tracks. The final track, "Waiting" was also along these lines. It starts as a laid back spacey number with tasteful guitar melodies and phased vocalizations. It then blasts into an intense rockin' jam that shows that these folks can still fire up the cosmos when they want to.
If you're already familiar with Omnia Opera you won't be blown away by this disc but it's a solid release. A bit of a different direction for the band. But if you are new to Omnia Opera then this is absolutely not the place to start. I recommend starting in with the band's much stronger debut CD on Delerium. Either way this is a band I wish I'd known about earlier. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz